Two years ago in my World AIDS Day message, I talked about K’naan and how I wanted to write a rap song about HIV. This year, I’ve picked a song from a different artist that expresses my sentiments about the ongoing challenge of the HIV pandemic. It’s a song by the brilliant Jason Mraz and the theme is this… I Won’t Give Up!
Caring about the issue of HIV can be discouraging at times. This has been a particularly emotional week. Each year, around this time, UNAIDS releases a World AIDS Day update. As you read the report, you could end up feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of this pandemic that continues to wreak havoc for individuals, families and communities across the globe. Despite the daunting statistics and the personal tragedies that I have witnessed, I remain an obstinate optimist – using the report to look for the signs of positive progress. I note for instance that new HIV infections in children are 43% lower than in 2003, before the Give a Day movement had started. This news brings tangible evidence that the elimination of new infections in children is possible.
But this week carried with it some unique emotional low points. Just as we celebrate that 8 million people in the world now have access to anti-retroviral therapy, we realize equal numbers of people – who need those medications right now to stay alive – don’t have access. And Canadians have reason to feel particularly disheartened this week because the initiative to fix Canada’s flawed regime for sending low-priced generic medicines to less-resourced countries was defeated in the House of Commons. We walked away from an extraordinary opportunity to help save lives.
…which brings me to the Jason Mraz song that speaks to the need to persevere, saying…
“I won’t give up
I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily,
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake”
Indeed when it comes to the HIV pandemic, there is a lot at stake. In 2012, no one should live or die with AIDS. The need to act is as urgent as it has ever been in the 30 years since this pandemic was described. We cannot give up. We cannot walk away so easily. We must respond somehow.
That’s why I’m proud to remind you about Give a Day. It is a movement of ordinary Canadians who recognize World AIDS Day each year and they respond in a practical way. These concerned global citizens give one day’s pay to organizations that put those resources to good use in the communities most affected by HIV. To date, Give a Day has raised over $3.5 million for the two recipients that we recommend: the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International.
Please join me in expressing your commitment to the people and places most affected by HIV. On December 1, World AIDS Day, please Give a Day. In the words of Jason Mraz…
I won’t give up.