01 December 2009
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December every year. It is an international day to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS around the world. The first World AIDS Day was celebrated on 1 December 1988. This year’s theme for the day is “human rights and access to treatment”. The theme has been chosen to address the critical need to protect human rights and make HIV prevention, treatment, care and support accessible to all. The theme acts as a call to countries to remove laws that discriminate against people living with HIV.
UNAIDS and the World Health Organization released its annual AIDS Epidemic Update on 24 November this year, indicating that 33.4 million people were living with HIV in 2008, up slightly from 2007. The higher figure is credited to increased availability to treatment allowing more people to live longer. Overall, the data indicates that new infections have dropped 17 percent over the past eight years. Despite areas of progress, children still account for 2.1 million of people living with HIV, although the number of deaths has declined. The number of children newly infected with HIV in 2008 was roughly 18% lower than in 2001.
How can you contribute in raising awareness about AIDS?
* Find out facts about HIV and talk to your friends, family and colleagues about HIV- make sure they know the reality, not the myths.
* Know your HIV status: get tested if you have put yourself at risk.
* Talk to all new sexual partners about using condoms. Using a condom during sex is the best way to protect yourself and your partner from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
* If someone tells you they are HIV positive, treat them with respect and don’t tell others without their agreement.
* Wear a red ribbon as a symbol of your support for everyone affected by HIV< and to raise awareness.
What is HIV? Is there any difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system - the body's defence against diseases. If left untreated, HIV eventually weakens the immune system so much that the person falls sick with infections known as opportunistic infections or OIs. The most serious of these OIs are called AIDS defining illnesses. When the person becomes ill with one of the AIDS defining illnesses, s/he is said to have Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
How does it occur?
HIV can be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. The most common ways HIV is passed on are:
* Sex without a condom with someone living with HIV
* Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
* From an HIV-positive mother (to her child) during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding (but with effective treatment and care the risk of transmission can be greatly reduced)
Can HIV be cured?
At this time, there is no cure or vaccination that can prevent or cure HIV infection, though a lot of research is being done for a vaccine. Nevertheless, timely diagnoses and treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. People on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life, although they may experience side effects from the treatment. The best way is to protect yourself from HIV by observing the following points:
* Using condoms correctly and consistently.
* Not sharing needles and syringes for injecting drugs
* Insisting on sterile disposable syringes and needles for injections
* Getting all sexually transmitted infections treated by a qualified doctor as soon as possible, also getting your partner checked/treated
* Avoiding casual and unprotected sex with partners of unknown sexual status
The task ahead
To make this year's World AIDS Day theme "human rights and access to treatment" - a success, the following aims need to be met:
* Non-discrimination: Those battling with HIV/AIDS should be treated with utmost equality with others and should not be discriminated against on the gourd of their HIV status.
* Right to privacy: HIV status of the patients must be kept confidential
* Right to liberty and freedom of movement: Those suffering from HIV/AIDS should be protected against imprisonment, segregation, or isolation in a special hospital ward
* Right to education/information: Access to all HIV prevention education and information and sexual and reproductive health information and education should be ensured
* Right to health: There should be access to all health care prevention services, including for sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, voluntary counseling and testing, and to male and female condoms.