Former US president Bill Clinton may have uttered the best word to describe the global AIDS situation.
It is "breathtaking," since the growth momentum of AIDS infection has not been significantly slowed, in a war that we cannot afford to lose.
Despite growing access to various treatments, between 4 and 5 million people worldwide may be infected with HIV in the next year. This means more than 10,000 infections a day.
The world, including governments and international advocacy organizations, must make collective efforts to increase financial support, strengthen research and hold back the pandemic.
This is the message sent by the six-day International AIDS Conference in Canada. And this message needs to be translated into real action.
Over the past 25 years, 65 million people have been infected with HIV and 25 million have died as a result. It is evolving into a global scourge that will bring health, labor and poverty disasters if no effective solution is found.
No HIV/AIDS vaccine has yet been found. We must figure out some second-best solutions, one of which is education and access to timely traditional treatment.
More tragic than the AIDS tragedy itself, however, is that the majority of patients in many countries are concentrated in under-developed rural areas, where local residents are weak in access to both information and treatment.
China faces the same situation. Experts pointed out that about 80 percent of our HIV/AIDS patients are rural residents. They do not know much about the "strange" disease and cannot afford treatment.
Worldwide, the governments and non-governmental organizations are making efforts to bridge that information and affordability gap, but it takes time.
And the virus does not wait.
It is dangerous that in some areas, such as Asia, including China, the infection rate is growing rapidly in recent years.
The human beings are trapped in a dilemma: No effective method can stop the spread of the virus until people are fully aware of the danger and preventative measures; but by then, the number of the infected would become unaffordable.
The world is trying to find a way to shake off that dilemma, as the world conference shows. It is time to deliver our wisdom. Education, increased input, heightened awareness, strengthened research: It will take efforts from all the globe's governments on all fronts.
(China Daily August 16, 2006)