I want to pay tribute to all those people who have worked so hard to raise awareness and take action on HIV and AIDS. The work you do brings hope to people in Britain and all over the world. But we have to continue that fight; we cannot become complacent – HIV and AIDS are too real and too widespread to give up.
In the UK today, 90,000 people are living with HIV – three times the number a decade ago. By the end of next 2011, over 100,000 will have the virus. Equally worrying is that over a quarter of the people in the UK with HIV are completely unaware they are carrying the virus because they are undiagnosed. And around the world, 33 million people are living with HIV and AIDS; over two million of those are children.
Despite the huge strides that have been made in medical treatment for HIV over the last two decades, knowledge about how HIV is transmitted is now lower than it was ten years ago.
And the sad reality is that HIV stigma and discrimination are still an issue for many people. One in three people with the virus say they have experienced discrimination because of their HIV status. People with HIV report facing discrimination at work, at school, and even in healthcare settings – this is unfair, and unacceptable.
So we have to do more to tackle this awful illness – we have to all make an effort to ACT AWARE. Today, I am pledging my support for the ACT AWARE campaign. I will use this opportunity to help improve understanding and raise awareness of the challenges we face in tackling HIV and AIDS.
I hope you will join me by speaking to your friends, neighbours and colleagues about those challenges. Together, we can make real progress.