The 1st of December marks the World AIDS Day worldwide and this is a good opportunity to show support to people infected by it, commemorate the ones who lost their lives and fight against it.
World AIDS Day is the first global health day ever, and its purpose is to educate ourselves and raise awareness of AIDS.
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes HIV infection. The virus attacks our immune system and our body’s natural defense against illnesses. The virus destroys the so-called T-helper cells, which are white blood cells in the immune system. The T-helper cells are also referred to as the CD4 cells. As HIV destroys them and makes more copies of itself, it gradually weakens the body’s immune system.
AIDS, on the other side, is a set of symptoms and illnesses that develop as a result of advanced HIV infection which has destroyed the immune system. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death.
Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. The virus was first identified in 1959 but was not diagnosed until 1984.
77.3 million people have become infected, and more than 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses
There are at least 1.15 million people living with AIDS in the US, which has the highest number of AIDS patients in the developed world.
Around 1 in 7 people living with HIV are unaware they are living with the virus, as it can take up to 10 years after exposure for any symptoms to appear.
Regular testing is extremely important for diagnosis and around 59% of people living with the virus have access to treatment.
The first drug to prevent HIV transmission was only approved by the FDA in 2012, but it can reduce the risk of HIV for 75%.
IN 2017, 1.8 milion people became newly infected with HIV. Since a peak in 2004, deaths from AIDS have decreased
People do not want to get tested for HIV for multiple reasons. One of the prevailing ones is the social stigma associated with it, as people feel they will be rejected by the community. However, not testing yourself will just worsen the situation and won’t bring any good. People might think they are not at risk of being infected as they are having a monogamous relationship and are using protection. However, it is important to know that there are multiple ways of transmitting HIV.
HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids from a person with HIV. These body fluids include semen, blood, vaginal, pre-seminal and anal fluids, and breastmilk. HIV can’t be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine. HIV is mostly transmitted by having vaginal/anal sex with someone who has HIV without using condoms/taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV. Another way is through sharing injection drug equipment such as needles with someone who is infected by the virus.
Reducing the risk of an HIV infection is done using protection while having sex, never sharing injection drug equipment with others and limiting the number of sexual partners. Consult this Risk Reduction Tool to learn how safe you are.
What happens if you don’t get treatment?
If not treated, the immune system will become so weak until it can no longer fight life-threatening infections and diseases. Depending on age, general health and background, the rate at which HIV progresses vary per person. If left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so badly damaged it can’t any longer defend itself at all.
An early diagnosis and start of treatment mean the patient can enjoy better health in long-term.
ART, or Antiretroviral therapy is used for treatment and is recommended for everyone who has HIV. ART can’t cure the HIV infection but can help people live longer, healthier lives reducing the level of HIV. There is no cure for HIV, but with the right treatment and support can create a big change. To learn more about the symptoms of the virus, visit Explaining HIV and AIDS.
Find more information here:
To find a location to get tested, go to GET TESTED
How can you show support for the AIDS international Day 2018?
You can show solidarity by wearing a red ribbon, which marks fighting against AIDS. You can purchase your ribbon from the online store. Spreading your knowledge and awareness with other people in your surrounding is extremely important.
Finally, remember to get tested against HIV at least once, share your knowledge with your community, and show compassion to people affected by it! xx