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World AIDS Day 2012: Striving for An AIDS-Free Generation

In the U.S., about 1.2 million people are living with HIV—but about 240,000 don't know they are infected.

It’s been more than 30 years since AIDS became a part of the world consciousness.

And while the global fight against AIDS is making strides to reduce the spread of the disease, the goal is getting to zero by 2015, says the World AIDS Campaign. What’s that mean?

Zero new HIV infections.

Zero discrimination.

Zero AIDS-related deaths.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1—and there is cause to celebrate, because the tide may be beginning to turn. Progress is being made toward an AIDS-free generation, especially in Africa, the region most affected by HIV.

According to a new UN report released Thursday, the rate of new HIV infections has dropped by more than half in 25 low-and-middle-income countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Reducing the rate of new infections among children has been successful, as well. Globally, the infection rate among newborns has been cut in half in the past two years, says the report from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the numbers as she unveiled the administration’s blueprint for achieving an AIDS-free generation in the U.S.

“So as we continue to drive down the number of new infections and drive up the number of people on treatment, eventually we will be able to treat more people than become infected every year,” Clinton said Thursday during a State Department event recognizing World AIDS Day. “That will be the tipping point. We will then get ahead of the pandemic, and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight. Now, we don’t know how long it will take to do this everywhere, but we know that we can do it.”

There is still much work to be done. Many people don’t know their HIV status, and stigmas persist against vulnerable populations, such as intravenous drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men, says the report.

Here at home, about 1.2 million people are living with HIV, but about 240,000 don't know they are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of the new HIV infections each year—and 60 percent of them are unaware they are infected, says the CDC.

Want to help fight AIDS? Getting tested is a good start, according to AIDS.gov. Free testing is available. To find HIV testing sites and care services in your area, use the national locator tool and put your ZIP code in the search box.

You can also send a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948) or visit http://hivtest.cdc.gov/

And to show your support, join the Facing AIDS photo-sharing initiative and leave a photo with a message in the Facing AIDS photo gallery. Or take to Twitter with the hashtag #WAD2012 to tell others what you’re doing in support of World AIDS Day.

Do you know anyone with AIDS? Has it affected your life?

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