World Aids Day was on Sunday (1 December), so what better time to reflect on how far the fight against HIV/AIDS has come in recent decades. A disease that once signified a death-sentence is slowly but surely in decline and an end to the most destructive pandemic in human history is no longer unimaginable writes expathealth.org
On the whole, HIV sufferers are living longer, more fulfilled lives. However, those most at risk of contracting the virus; sex workers, users of intravenous drugs and homosexual men, still face daily stigma from society at large.
Maybe surprisingly, it has been reported that the number of new cases in some European countries has actually been increasing. In the current period of austerity challenging much of the continent, treatment and services have fallen victim to government cuts.
It has been suggested that as the incidence of the disease declines, it is no longer taken as seriously as it once was. But where does that leave the 35 million people around the world still living with HIV/AIDS?
There remains widespread misunderstanding, and cultural differences mean that sufferers are still often demonised. This is evident from the fact that more than 70 countries across the world continue to uphold some form of law prohibiting homosexuality, restricting access to treatment and support for those most in need.
It is also necessary that the attitude towards female sufferers changes, as it is now possible to prevent transmission of the infection to any unborn children. In much of Africa women are still seen as the carriers and transmitters of the virus.
UNAIDS will be inaugurating Zero Discrimination Day on the 1st March 2014 in an attempt to end the persecution faced by many HIV/AIDS sufferers.
Raising awareness is key to winning the battle against AIDS. Some facts that you may not know:
- With proper treatment it is possible for HIV sufferers to no longer be infectious.
- Life expectancy of an HIV sufferer after 5 years of treatment is the same as the rest of the population, if they are diagnosed early.
- It only takes 15-20 minutes to get the results from an HIV test.
The emphasis is now firmly on early diagnosis, as early treatment reduces the likeliness of a carrier being contagious. Ignorance of HIV/AIDS continues to be as much of an issue in the west as it is in Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in Britain 1 in 4 people with HIV are undiagnosed and in Germany the figure worryingly jumps to 1 in 3.
For more information about AIDS awareness, visit the official World AIDS Day website.