December 2, 2016 at 9:57 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
World leaders commemorate World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day, Justin Trudeau, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a World AIDS Day commemoration at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario, on Dec. 1, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Justin Trudeau’s office)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the world leaders who commemorated World AIDS Day on Thursday.

Trudeau raised a World AIDS Day flag above the Canadian Parliament. Global News, a Canadian television station, reported Health Minister Jane Philpott on Thursday announced the government will spend an additional $2.64 million on HIV/AIDS research.

“Let us pause on World AIDS Day to remember the many people in Canada and around the world who have been lost to HIV/AIDS, and to renew our commitment to eliminating this disease in the years to come,” said Trudeau in a statement. “Today, and every day, we extend our compassion and kindness to everyone who is affected — not only those we have lost, but also those who are still living, including families.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed a similar message in a video that her office posted online.

She applauded the way the National Health Service treats people with HIV/AIDS, even though a number of Twitter users questioned or even criticized the country’s response to the epidemic. May conceded more needs to be done to address stigma.

“For all the progress in treatment and prevention, public attitudes have not progressed as far or as fast,” she said.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday said in a statement the world is “progressing towards the first-AIDS generation in more than 30 years” because of investments and research that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has supported.

“Our work is far from done,” he added.

Helem, a Lebanese advocacy group, this week launched an online campaign to combat stigma against people with HIV. It also held an “awareness session” about the epidemic at its community center in Beirut on Thursday.

Members of the Movement for Sexual Diversity, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group known by the Spanish acronym MUMS, painted their naked bodies with red paint before protesting in a square in the country’s capital of Santiago on Thursday. They held hand-written signs that called for more education about HIV/AIDS.

U.N.: 35 million people have died from AIDS

UNAIDS estimates 36.7 million people around the world were living with HIV at the end of 2015. Statistics also indicate 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the epidemic began.

UNAIDS on Wednesday held a moment of silence at an event in New York that commemorated World AIDS Day. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé then honored outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his public support of people living with HIV/AIDS and LGBT and intersex people around the world.

“We are motivated to fight AIDS because we know that every child deserves care, every person deserves treatment and all vulnerable groups deserve protection from stigma and abuse,” said Ban. “Tolerance and awareness help stop AIDS. Speaking out protects life.”

Deputy South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said his government has provided antiretroviral drugs to more than 3.7 million people. He also celebrated a “dramatic reduction” of mother to child HIV transmission, but admitted an estimated 266,000 South Africans contracted HIV in 2015.

Ramaphosa said there are an estimated 2,000 new HIV infections among girls and women between 15-24 years old each week.

“South Africa is facing an HIV infection emergency,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • Thank you for this report, Michael. Incidentally, the events on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Canada was organised by the local AIDS Committee of Ottawa. Volunteers knit over 300 red scarves for the day’s events and to give out to local long-time survivors like myself.

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