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I walked past a poster yesterday in about a fund-raising walk in Toronto today to raise money for the AIDS Committee of Toronto. The poster was emblazoned with the slogan AIDS IS NOT OVER!

That poster made me stop in my tracks. I could not walk past it. Of course I know that AIDS is not over. I think about AIDS on a pretty regular basis. I have dozens of patients with HIV in my clinical practice just north of Toronto. We are getting ready to launch the 2012 “Give a Day to World AIDS” campaign. I am fully aware that 34 million people in the world live with HIV.
But when I read that slogan yesterday -“AIDS IS NOT OVER” – I had an instant flash of alarm. The alarm didn’t arise from any new awareness of the facts of the pandemic. The alarm came from a stark realization that AIDS has indeed left the bright spotlight of our collective consciousness. The slogan is a plea to all of us to maintain the action that is imperative if we are genuinely aiming for a world without AIDS.

AIDS is not over.

Yes there are great treatments for HIV. Yes there has been great scientific and social progress on prevention of infection. But the number of people living with HIV in Canada continues to rise. And even in urban Canada people still die from AIDS.

AIDS is not over.

There is great global optimism based on the fact that the tools exist to “turn the tide” on the pandemic. Yet in the big global picture, the numbers of people who become infected with HIV each year still out-paces the numbers who have are started on treatment each year.

AIDS is not over.

Those of us who spend time trying to raise awareness and raise funds for grassroots organizations responding to the pandemic can tell you that it is harder than ever to inspire people to focus on HIV. In the Give a Day movement, we challenge people to recognize World AIDS Day (December 1) by giving just one day’s pay to an organization that will use the money effectively to address HIV and AIDS. Volunteer organizers happily put hours of energy into mobilizing resources for communities affected by HIV. The generous response of Canadians has been extraordinary. But it never seems to get easier.

Why isn’t AIDS over?

The reasons are multi-factorial: medical, scientific, social, political, structural, economic, etc…

But the solutions come from within. Within the hearts, minds and souls of each of us, we need to be tenaciously determined not to abandon the cause of AIDS. In the year 2012 it is simply unacceptable that two million people die each year because of an infection that is both preventable and treatable.

Yesterday, I did eventually walk past the poster that said “AIDS is not over”. But it made me stop and reflect. Let us not walk past AIDS. Let us walk for it! Today – and each day onward!

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