Today marks World AIDS Day 2013, an international health awareness day all over the world. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died. World AIDS Day was first held in 1988 as the first ever global health day.
Today, HIV/AIDS is considered one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
By the numbers:
- 33.4 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
- More than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide since the first cases were reported in 1981.
- In 2008, 2 million people died due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.7 million were newly infected.
- While cases have been reported in all regions of the world, almost all those living with HIV (97%) reside in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most people living with HIV or at risk for HIV do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure.
- The HIV epidemic not only affects the health of individuals, it impacts households, communities, and the development and economic growth of nations. Many of the countries hardest hit by HIV also suffer from other infectious diseases, food insecurity, and other serious problems.
- Despite these challenges, there have been successes and promising signs. New global efforts have been mounted to address the epidemic, particularly in the last decade. Prevention has helped to reduce HIV prevalence rates in a small but growing number of countries and new HIV infections are believed to be on the decline. In addition, the number of people with HIV receiving treatment in resource poor countries has increased 10-fold since 2002, reaching an estimated 4 million by 2008.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV.
World AIDS Day 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.
If you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today – you can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of others, and ensure you treat everyone living with HIV fairly, and with respect and understanding.
You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support.
Though World AIDS Day is just one day, you can Act Aware throughout the year and can participate in fundraising events throughout the year — National AIDS Trust (NAT) has many suggestions and ideas for getting involved and taking action.
A few facts about HIV:
- Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
- You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
- HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
- Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
- You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
- There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV
- HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
The most common myths about HIV:
- You can’t have a baby if you or your partner is HIV positive
- HIV can be passed on through sharing razors or toothbrushes
- If you get HIV you’ll die soon
- It takes months before you can have a test and get the results to find out if you have HIV
- Only gay men get HIV
- My partner would automatically tell me if they had HIV
- You can get HIV from someone who spits at you or bites you
- You can get HIV if you stand on or pick up a used needle
- It’s very easy for me to catch HIV from someone who is infected
- My HIV test results won’t be kept confidential
- Condoms aren’t effective in preventing HIV transmission
- You can get HIV by having a fish pedicure
Sources: National AIDS Trust (NAT), HIVAware.org, and WorldAIDSDay.org.