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World AIDS Day 2011 is about "Getting to Zero." Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths. Backed by the United Nations the "Getting to Zero" campaign runs until 2015 and builds on the previous year's successful World AIDS Day "Light for Rights" initiative.

World AIDS Day 1 December 1988 was the first ever global health day and has since provided an opportunity for people all over the world to unite on the 1 Dec each year to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. It is also a reminder to us all to learn the facts about HIV&AIDS and to put our knowledge into action. Although it is a great opportunity to get the public talking about HIV and to fundraise, we need to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV all year round.

In 2011 the decision to go with the millennium development related goal of "Getting to Zero" comes after extensive discussions among people living with HIV, health activists, broader civil society and many others - more than a hundred organisations in all.


Says World AIDS Campaign Africa Director, Linda Mafu. "Our organisation will focus on Zero AIDS Related Deaths, but the choice is there for others to pick a different zero or all three."

The World AIDS Campaign focus on "Zero AIDS Related Deaths" signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now. A demand they honour promises like the Abuja declaration and that African Governments at very least hit agreed targets for domestic spending on health and HIV in support of the human right to the best attainable level of health care for all.

"Decision makers need to understand that people living with HIV, the marginalized, the dispossessed - all of us - want our rights." Linda Mafu adds. "I can see all sort of events on World AIDS Day. For example, marches that end in Light for Rights type actions outside Finance Ministries where beams of torchlight shine on buildings where under spending on HIV and health cost thousands of lives.

She adds "Zero New HIV Infections" and "Zero Discrimination" are equally as likely to spark high impact events from small scale community vigils to nationwide events using the universally recognised shape of zeros and the power of light to get life and death issues the attention they deserve.

Giving regions, countries and constituencies the latitude to focus on one or all of the Zeros that is most relevant to their context was central to the WAC's decision, an approach fully supported by UNAIDS. "Getting to Zero is the overall agenda for responding to HIV in the next five years, but the priority may be zero discrimination in some parts of the world and zero AIDS related deaths in some other parts—it's important to keep this connection with the local realities" said Djibril Diallo, Director of Global Outreach at UNAIDS.



This year's World AIDS Day is anticipated to see renewed activism from the civil society as 1st December 2011 falls only 6 months before the International AIDS Conference taking place in Washington DC. This year also marks the 30th year since AIDS was first reported.

10 goals for 2015 are:

  1. Sexual transmission of HIV reduced by half, including among young people, men who have sex with men and transmission in the context of sex work.
  2. Vertical transmission of HIV eliminated and AIDS-related maternal deaths reduced by half.
  3. All new HIV infections prevented among people who use drugs.
  4. Universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV who are eligible for treatment.
  5. TB deaths among people living with HIV reduced by half.
  6. All people living with HIV and households affected by HIV are addressed in all national social protection strategies and have access to essential care and support.
  7. Countries with punitive laws and practises around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective responses reduced by half.
  8. HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence eliminated in half of the countries that have such restrictions.
  9. HIV-specific needs of women and girls are addressed in at least half of all national HIV responses.
  10. Zero tolerance for gender-based violence.

Information courtesy of UNAIDS feature Story, 1 Nov 2011 and

Download the UNAIDS 2011 – 2015 strategy


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The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Durban from November 28 to December 9. Time draws near for Africa's first COP and the discourse surrounding the expected outcomes of the event mushroom. Amid the plethora of hopes and aspirations for the event, there remains much scepticism as to what solid outcomes can be expected at this convergence of government, corporate and civil society representatives. This is especially true as the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the only existing binding international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - expires at the end of 2012.

The conference is set to attract over 20 000 delegates from more than 190 countries. International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (whose department is coordinating the event) is the incoming president of COP 17 and has conveyed to the South African National Assembly that they 'in the main, are happy with their state of readiness'.


In terms of the vision for the event, Nkoana-Mashabane indicated there were essentially two ideological camps, which were currently seen to be competing. "One vision wants to limit Durban's focus to the operationalisation of what came out of Cancun [COP 16 held in Mexico last year], and the other wants to additionally focus on finalisation of matters still outstanding from the Bali Road Map [an attempt to implement a binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, adopted in Indonesia in 2007]." During her address, Nkoana-Mashabane identified adaptation as a key focus for Africa during the Durban conference.

From the perspective of many governmental representatives, it is crucial for the developed world to shoulder the biggest burden of emissions cuts, as historically they have made the largest contribution to the circumstances leading to climate change. In reference to what is widely held to be at the cornerstone of the immediate future of the climate change agenda, South Africa's Democratic Alliance party's Gareth Morgan noted: "the big question on everyone's mind is whether there will be a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol". This is the main and most difficult challenge facing South African negotiators, although the EU has come forward with an offer to continue it if other countries will join. Many countries – including Japan, Canada and Russia, seem to have little interest in a second commitment period unless developing countries make similar commitments.

The consequences of failure shall be particularly pertinent in view of the fact that the conference takes place on African soil – as both climate models and socio-economic circumstances indicate that the continent is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.


Another challenging hurdle is the financial aspect of pursuing the climate change agenda – cutting emissions and investing in adaptation technology are both costly exercises requiring an extensive outlay of cash. The UN Green Climate Fund – involving a $100 billion pledge made by developed countries in Copenhagen, has been stalled on the question of financial sourcing and the Funds' finalisation on the objections of two countries within the Transitional Committee. The compromises reached at Copenhagen need to be upheld at the Durban conference if the rollout of the fund is to go ahead. However, with the deepening financial crisis extending across Europe, money pledged is unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future. According to Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment, "Developed countries have already started re-labelling development aid and loans as climate finance, but there is no new money coming in."

All these factors set the scene for a potentially explosive, eminently engaging and highly publicized event. The eyes of the world will no doubt be on Durban to see if promises are kept, to note where priorities lie, and to evaluate if and how world and corporate leaders intend to address the planets' burgeoning environmental crisis.