Forty years since the first AIDS cases were reported, the scourge still threatens the world. Today, the world seems to be off track from delivering on the shared commitment to end AIDS by 2030, not because of a lack of knowledge or tools to beat AIDS, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment and COVID-19.
Every December 1, World AIDS Day, is observed to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, educate people about HIV and how it’s transmitted, and support people living with AIDS to be free from discrimination and stigma.
Statistics show that globally, there are about 38 million people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and it is unfortunate that tens of millions of people have died from related causes since the 1980s.
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen and breast milk, and can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal and anal sex and shared injecting equipment. It can also be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy and childbirth.
HIV is most infectious in the first few months after infection. However, due to the fact that most people are not aware they have the virus at the time of inception, this is when the transmission is most likely.
While some people can live for years with HIV without getting sick, others can develop AIDS when their immune system becomes so weak it can no longer fight off disease, viruses or bacteria.
Ending the Stigma to end AIDS:
There’s been a lot of misinformation around how HIV spreads, which has caused those living with HIV/AIDS to face extreme treatments like social exclusion, stigma and discrimination.
Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 will require addressing stigma with a systematic approach and at a larger scale than what the current effort shows. Existing global evidence shows that stigma is a barrier to achieving each of the targets as it undermines HIV testing, linkage to care, treatment adherence, and viral load suppression.
Although there is still room to strengthen research on stigma measurement and reduction, in particular for intersectional stigma, the proliferation of evidence over the past several decades on how to measure and address stigma provides a solid foundation for immediate and comprehensive action.
This year, the theme of World AIDS Day is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact.” The theme reminds us of all we can achieve together when we focus on impact by using data to deliver high quality, people-centred HIV prevention and treatment services to those most in need, tackling stigma and discrimination, and empowering communities. It also reaffirms the essential role of resilience, which enables individuals and communities to meet the challenge of HIV/AIDS even in times of adversity.
Note that, you cannot get HIV/AIDS from hugging, kissing, shaking hands, using the same toilet, or sharing food and water.
Tell us what areas you think we can together aide this campaign.