AIDS activists around the world marched, prayed and wore red ribbons Monday to mark the ninth World AIDS Day - while AIDS victims in poor nations did what they did every day: Lived, struggled and died in obscurity.
On Monday, at least, their lives were honored.
In Europe, demonstrators observed the day with candlelight marches and songs; in Asia, governments announced new education and health programs aimed at fighting their growing AIDS problem.
Thousands marched in Paris at sundown, blowing whistles and carrying placards demanding more help for victims. Rallies were also held in other French cities.
“They are dying less in France, in the rich countries, but they continue to die more and more in the poor countries,” said French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Kouchner announced a plan to require that French doctors report the number of patients who test positive for the AIDS virus, though the names would remain confidential. “If we knew, in epidemiological terms, the number of HIV-positive people, this would vastly help us” fight AIDS, he said.
One in every 100 sexually active people age 15 to 49 worldwide has HIV, and among those infected, only one in 10 knows it, according to UNAIDS and the World Health Organization.
Figures released last week show doctors had underestimated the size of the epidemic by 30 percent: 30 million people now are infected with HIV and 16,000 more people are infected daily. Of the 2.3 million people expected to die this year of AIDS, 460,000 are children under 15.
This year’s World AIDS day emphasized the plight of HIV-infected children.
Elsewhere in Europe, 12 Athens radio stations broadcast an hourlong program on AIDS. Greek state-run television stations aired documentaries on AIDS, a Freddy Mercury concert - the singer who died of AIDS - and a ballet dedicated to the fight against AIDS.
In Helsinki, Finland, lawmakers lighted candles on the steps of Parliament. Some 50 artists performed a free concert in Turku, Finland’s former capital on the west coast, with the proceeds going to AIDS support centers.
The World Health Organization said new HIV infections in Western Europe have dropped 10 percent.