World AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Day is observed on December 1 every year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day for the first time in 1988.
HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system, the body’s defence against diseases.
AIDS is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection, when the immune system can no longer fight infections.
Someone with AIDS has both HIV and at least one of a specific list of ‘AIDS-defining’ diseases, which include tuberculosis, pneumonia and some types of cancer.
AIDS is life threatening, but if HIV is caught early and is treated, it will not lead to AIDS. If HIV is caught late, it can lead to more complications and could ultimately lead to AIDS. That is why it is so important to get tested early if you have been at risk of HIV, as it will mean that you can access treatment that will prevent you ever getting AIDS.
HIV stays in the body for life, but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. Without medication people with HIV can develop AIDS.
Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Unfortunately, 22 million people worldwide have no access to treatment.
Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, in many countries there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, in Pakistan we estimate up to 125 000 people have HIV, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
Pakistan has 21 HIV medical centres, 17 000 registered patients, of which 8000 have received medications.
Pakistan is an at-risk country due to increased levels of poverty, illiteracy, low health and education budgets and higher proportion of young people.
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away, there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
HOW IS HIV PASSED ON?
HIV can be passed on through infected semen, vaginal fluids, rectal secretions, blood or breast milk. Many of the risk factors are similar to Hepatitis B and C.
YOU CAN GET HIV FROM
Sexual intercourse without a condom if your partner has an unknown HIV status, a detectable viral load—high risk
Sharing injecting drug equipment (needles/syringes)—high risk
A woman can pass HIV onto her baby in the womb, during childbirth
and from breastfeeding, though effective HIV medication makes this extremely unlikely.
YOU CAN’T GET HIV FROM
Touching, hugging, shaking hands or sharing utensils
Kissing, spitting or sharing saliva
Urine or faeces
Biting or scratching
Contact with a discarded needle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.