AIDS currently affects about 36.7 million people in the world. At the end of 2015, around 2.1 million people were newly infected, and 1.1 million died from AIDS-related disease. Since the start of the epidemic, 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died.
Like many complex global challenges, AIDS is full of self-reinforcing loops. It’s an illness that steals the breadwinners and the most productive members of rural households. When breadwinners and agricultural workers get sick or die of AIDS, households end up depending even more on natural resources.
HIV is a long and drawn-out illness, and women as main caregivers spend most of their time taking care of sick family members. This reduces their ability to properly manage the very natural resources they rely on.
When natural resources degrade, women and girls, who are often responsible for fetching water, putting food on the table and providing medicine for the sick, must go further and further distances in search for these resources. This increases their vulnerability to gender-based violence— and sexually transmitted disease like HIV/AIDS.
And when husbands and fathers die of AIDS, often women are left vulnerable because they do not have access to land, becoming food insecure, and, as a result may become vulnerable to prostitution— and to HIV.
This is one example of how interlinked the world’s most pressing global challenges are— gains in one area can boost gains in another in a virtuous cycle; but the opposite is true of missing any one goal.
Human wellbeing— access to health care, the eradication of poverty and AIDS, achieving gender equality and empowering young people— is intricately linked to environmental sustainability and responsible use of natural resources.
Ending HIV/AIDS as an epidemic by 2030 can only happen if people and institutions from every relevant field and every walk of life understand how what they do contributes to or hinders progress and work together towards getting those numbers down to zero.
Each year, the world commemorates World AIDS Day on 1 December.