The United States plans to propose a global annual HIV Testing Day modeled on a U.S. campaign encouraging at-risk individuals to determine if they have the AIDS virus, first lady Laura Bush said on Friday.
Despite gains in preventing and treating HIV infection, “life-saving treatment never reaches people who don’t know they’re infected,” Bush told a U.N. conference on HIV/AIDS. “So another challenge is making sure more people know their HIV status.
The three-day U.N. conference, due to end later on Friday, was convened to plot global strategy for battling the pandemic over the coming decade.
“Here in the United States, June 27 is recognized as National HIV Testing Day,” Bush told the meeting. “The United States will soon propose the designation of an International HIV Testing Day. I urge all member states to join us in support of this initiative.”
The annual U.S. campaign was started in 1995 by the National Association of People with AIDS. The group distributes kits to help community groups and health authorities promote the campaign in their areas.
With U.S. and international help, “millions are now learning to live with HIV/AIDS instead of waiting to die from it,” Bush said.
“More people need to know how AIDS is transmitted and every country has an obligation to educate its citizens,” said Bush, a former school librarian who often uses the White House as a platform to promote education and reading.
“This is why every country must also improve literacy, especially for women and girls, so they can learn to make wise choices that will keep them healthy and safe,” she said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addressing the conference after the first lady, told delegates reversing the pandemic required every world leader “to decide and declare that ‘AIDS stops with me.’”
“I look to every one of you to demonstrate this personal commitment in the declaration that you adopt today,” he said.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD