To mark World AIDS Day, my friends at #HH4E asked me to write something about why it’s so important that we mark this date.
For people living with HIV in the UK, things have changed dramatically since World Aids Day was first commemorated in 1988, but across the world? The story is mixed.
There can be no denying that fantastic work has been done to increase the visibility and access to testing, to develop and distribute new ways to prevent and protect against the transmission of HIV and to combat the stigma attached to people living with it.
It has to be noted, however, that in 2013 there were around 35 million people living with HIV (worldwide) and since the start of the epidemic around 39 million people have died of AIDS-related illness (worldwide), so we’re not there yet.
That said, the upside to those figures (if there can be one) is that although 39 million people have died as a result of AIDS-related illness, that was out of 78 million who have been infected (worldwide, since the start of the epidemic).
In short – we’re saving a LOT of lives.
There was a little celebrated victory not long ago; studies being published showing that there have been (to date) no recorded cases of transmission from a person who is HIV+ but undetectable due to viral suppression. With the increasingly likely rollout of prophylactic drug regime, PReP (if you’ve never heard of it, google PReP and ‘Proud study’), across the UK we should continue to see transmission rates in those that are most at risk decline.
However, there are still pitfalls and hurdles to overcome; credible concerns have been raised about the rise of other STIs as the fear of HIV subsides in the UK. There are still communities within our country who are not being regularly tested and won’t be offered PReP, but as individuals, may be just as at risk for a myriad of reasons.
It is going to take a group effort and we must support the rest of the world as it works towards getting to the place we are fortunate to be in today. Then collectively, we must keep pushing until we eradicate this disease forever.
World Aids Day is a call to action to do our bit to help end HIV worldwide. It doesn’t have to be a lot; you could go get tested, buy a ribbon or simply talk about HIV and help combat the stigma often experienced by those living with it.
Its a day to commemorate those we’ve lost – but its also an opportunity to celebrate; the end is in sight.
If we all do our bit, we can and will beat HIV.