Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Bruce Czuchna and Diane Lang For The Register-Guard
Recently, more than 500 community leaders and friends joined HIV Alliance for our annual Red Ribbon Circle Breakfast. And there, we witnessed a truly profound moment in time.
We watched as the entire room fell silent, breath suspended and hearts filled with emotion, as Spectrum, Lane Community College's jazz ensemble, performed a beautiful rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine." But there was a slight change in the lyrics: "Imagine there's no AIDS."
With the disease still an overwhelming epidemic spanning the globe, that's hard to do.
Today, we observe World AIDS Day - a day to remember, honor and grieve loved ones lost to AIDS; spread awareness and knowledge about the disease and its prevention; and, together, dare to imagine a future free from AIDS.
Internationally, there are 33.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and the number of new infections continues to climb each year. In 2007, 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV, and more than 2 million died of AIDS-related causes - that's four people dying every minute.
Most people infected with HIV/AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa, although Southeast Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa also have significant numbers of individuals affected and rising numbers of new infections.
In North America, Western and Central Europe, widespread access to effective antiretroviral treatment has helped keep the number of new infections comparatively low. More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS, with at least 24 percent undiagnosed and unaware of their HIV infection.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 40,000 new infections in the U.S. each year.
Nationally, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects people of color. According to the CDC, blacks are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS than whites, and three times more likely than Hispanics. The rate of AIDS diagnoses for black women is nearly 23 times the rate of white men.
Despite a decrease in HIV diagnoses for gay and bisexual men during the 1980s and 1990s, alarmingly, in recent years, HIV diagnoses for this group are increasing. In 2005, 53 percent of all new HIV and AIDS diagnoses were among gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with men and may not identify as gay or bisexual. …