World AIDS Day Panel to Include Obama, Bush and Clinton

U.S. President Barack Obama will speak alongside former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and anti-AIDS activists in a World AIDS Day panel on Thursday.

Obama will join the event’s hosts at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to participate in the discussion. Clinton and Bush will appear via satellite. Bush is in Tanzania with President Jakaya Kikwete.

Other guests include Bono, whose ONE and (RED) campaigns have sought to raise awareness of global AIDS and poverty issues. Artist Alicia Keys will also participate on the panel. The singer is the co-founder and global ambassador of Keep A Child Alive – a non-proft organization that helps families in Africa with HIV and AIDS by providing medicine and supplies.

Organizers hope to build awareness of the current state of the disease and continue the momentum already generated toward eradicating the disease.

More than 35 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide, and many carriers are living full lives. With the increased affordability and availability of medicine, people with HIV and AIDS in first-world countries are living deep into their 70s and 80s.

But the outlook for AIDS carriers in the developing world is not as optimistic.

In the world’s hardest hit region, southern Africa, life expectancy has dropped as low as 32 in some countries. Sick communities fall victim to a lack of medication, poor prevention education and nonexistent support from some governments.

Removing the stigma of AIDS is a major obstacle for activists. Governments are unlikely to supply sick people with medicine and health care in parts of the world, citing high costs for a disease that ostensibly affects large sections of the ostracized homosexual and sex worker communities.

Activists, however, cite that AIDS affects as many men as women in the developing world. The “overwhelming majority” of AIDS infections are caused by unprotected heterosexual sex, according to the World Health Organization.

World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 is an event organized by activists with the hope of removing the misconception that AIDS only affects certain communities. With proper preventative education, increased availability of contraception methods and affordable medicine, activists hope to curb the pandemic.

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