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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingThis has been the worst year ever in terms of the spread of and death from AIDS. More than 40 million people are now infected and every day 8,000 people die from the virus.
The world health organization and UN are hoping new campaigns providing prevention education and easier access to drugs will help slow the spread of the disease.
South Africa is a country of breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking suffering. In a nation of 45 million people, five million are infected with the virus that causes aids. The vast majority do not have access to the medications that have proven so effective in the u.s.
But now the South African government is launching a new prevention and treatment program.
Pat Christen, Pangaea, SF AIDS Foundation: "It's quite comprehensive; they have a very large population of people with HIV who they will be providing access to care and treatment, and there has never really been a program of this kind anywhere in the world."
Pat Christen is the president of Pangaea, the global arm of the San Francisco AIDS foundation. Pangaea helped develop the new approach in South Africa.
The education arm will help reduce new infections; the treatment arm will help those already infected.
Agreements with pharmaceutical companies mean easier, cheaper access to life-saving medications. The drugs can do more than help restore an individual's health; they can restore a sense of hope for an entire community.
Pat Christen: "We've seen that with some of our partners in South Africa and Rwanda that even with a very few people in treatment, when a community sees a person literally come back to life, that Lazarus-like effect, it's very powerful, it's terribly powerful."
It's not just the South Africans who will benefit from the program. We all will.
Dr. Eric Goosby, CEO Pangaea: "Even though we are thousands of miles away, what is impacting people in sub-Saharan Africa is impacting people in Europe and in the United States on an infectious disease level."
The rapid spread of SARS around the world was a powerful reminder of how small the planet is. By helping protect others from deadly infectious diseases, we are also helping ourselves.