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This year, 2008, marks the 20th Anniversary of the declaration of the World Health Organization (WHO), that December 1st would be observed in all countries, regions, and cultures as “WORLD AIDS DAY” This year, the theme is: “Leadership: Taking the Lead to Stop HIV/AIDS.” For two decades now we have encapsulated the major challenges facing the world at large and the developing world in particular with respect to HIV. We hope these themes point the way forward for nations, organizations and individuals toward success in our strategies to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. Since the mid 1980s the Government of the Bahamas has invested the financial, human and infrastructural resources in creating the National HIV/AIDS Program and the National HIV/AIDS Centre to spearhead this nations response to HIV/AIDS. Successive Government administrations have never wavered in the essential commitment and support to deal with HIV/AIDS and providing the political will necessary for all Bahamians to make HIV/AIDS a priority. Our National Program emphasizes Prevention of HIV, Treatment for persons testing positive for HIV or AIDS, Care and Support for those affected by HIV/AIDS, Research and Training that has made the Bahamas a regional leader in the response to HIV/AIDS. For all the success the Bahamas has experience in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment our beautiful nation still faces significant challenges with respect to HIV. There are still key segments of Bahamian society that have not received or understood the critical message of HIV prevention. That message is simple; HIV is spread by sexual contact. If you are not sexually active then you should abstain--that means wait until you are in a committed, faithful relationship with one person to have sex. If you are sexually active then you should use a condom every time you have sex because condoms used properly can greatly reduce your chances of contracting HIV. Our Bahamaland needs you to be a leader on this issue. RLD AIDS DAY MESSAGE: e The Lead. STOP AIDS! You have to make sure that you know the facts about HIV/AIDS and that you are championing the cause of HIV prevention in your home, on your job and with your friends ‘and loved ones. Another challenge facing the Bahamas with respect to HIV/AIDS is the issue of stigma. Bahamians, ltke many other societies around our world, continue to struggle with discrimination and stigma aimed at persons who are HIV positive. Too many persons who should be tested for HIV are not coming forward to be tested because they fear of how their friends, family, coworkers and their society might stigmatize and discriminate against them. You can lead in this area by helping others to understand the facts about HIV/AIDS. Knowledge is the best antidote to fear and with. strong voices helping to educate Bahamians we can work together to end the stigma HIV positive persons face in our islands. HIV positive Bahamians work in every industry and trade, they attend services with us in our houses of worship, they are our neighbors and our friends. When any Bahamian is rejected because y of HV all Bahamians suffer and you can help put a stop to it. The Bahamas stands ready to continue le our role as a regional leader on the {issue of AIDS in the Caribbean. ‘The Bahamas like many other nations of world took a stand at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City during the summer of this year. Our nation reaffirmed our commitment to “stop AIDS.” To fulfill this pledge all Bahamians must become involved. All Bahamians must become leaders supporting the National AIDS Program with donations, with volunteers and with a strong personal investment in speaking out on the facts about HIV/AIDS to everyone in our own spheres of influence. The Bahamas will continue its remarkable ‘work on the issue of HIV/AIDS; the Bahamas will continue its leadership rote and with your help our nation will one day soon keep its promise to “stop AIDS” both here at home and across our region. “Knowledge is the best antidote to fear; We can work together to end the stigma of HIV” For more information, contact: ‘The HIV/AIDS Contre at: (242) 328-2740-5, mali: medicined@ehotmell.com nie ARDS "yo waa Rye @UNAIDS