June 15, 2011: At a three-day summit that concluded on June 10 in New York, the United Nations aimed high in its call to address the global AIDS problem. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pushed for international commitment to end AIDS by 2020, according to IRIN.
The goal, he said, was “zero new infections, zero stigma, and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

The gathering — the UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS — took place during the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS. Summit participants included government leaders and grassroots groups and activists from thirty nations.

On day three the group adopted bold goals to reach by 2015: double the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment to 15 million, eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission, cut in half tuberculosis-related deaths of people living with HIV, and expand preventive measures for highly vulnerable populations.

Money Talks; So Does On-the-Ground Education by Groups Like SOS
AIDS activists at the summit applauded the bold goals but expressed concern and skepticism about funding. UNAIDS says an additional $6 billion is needed beyond the $10 billion currently spent on AIDS. Commitments by individual governments to contribute money to combat global AIDS are not always honored. Most low-income nations are unable to stem AIDS without such assistance.

Meanwhile, nonprofit organizations like SOS Children’s Villages work hard on the ground to aid children affected by AIDS and to spread community-level AIDS awareness among children and families.

Stigma against HIV-positive children or those orphaned by AIDS is a formidable challenge SOS wrestles with daily. In traditional societies where discrimination and poverty cut off access to care and education for such children, SOS steps in to help.

“My parents both died of Aids within six months,” says 14-year-old Moussa from SOS-Niamey in Niger. “There was no hope of going to school as there was no one to pay my school fees.” Through its family strengthening programs, SOS moves thousands of children like Moussa (not his real name) into the classroom. SOS pays school fees and supplies kids with books and school uniforms.

SOS Helps Children Whose Lives Have Been Darkened by AIDS
The SOS Family Strengthening Program in Niamey started in 2005. For years SOS has been putting similar programs into action across Africa, counselling local families on HIV/AIDS prevention and providing medical help.