World AIDS Day

So I’m going to climb up on my soap box for today’s post.

As young people today we have never known a world without AIDS. When it was first brought to public attention nearly 30 years ago, no one could have predicted that by 2010, more than 25 million people worldwide would have lost their lives to AIDS and another 33 million would be living with HIV.

Today nearly half of all new HIV infections occur among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Ninety-seven percent of these new infections occur in low- and middle-income countries with limited access to HIV-prevention information and care.

December 1, 2010, marks World AIDS Day, an opportunity to raise awareness, fight stigma, remember those who have lost their lives or loved ones to AIDS, and celebrate the many advances in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment that have been made over the past 30 years. This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Universal Access and Human Rights,” which calls attention to the fact that, despite our progress, many people, often those most vulnerable to HIV infection, lack access to the care and services they need. One Millennium Development Goal was to achieve universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it by 2010. Though the world has not yet reached this goal, it is achievable. World AIDS Day is a moment for researchers, policymakers, program managers, peer educators, and others working in the field of HIV/AIDS to recommit to achieving universal access to care and services and, by doing so, to protect the human rights of marginalized and vulnerable populations.

Ways to Commemorate World AIDS Day

  1. Remember those who lost their lives – Visit the AIDS Memorial Quilt
  2. Celebrate progress – Attend a World AIDS Day event
  3. Know your status – Get tested
  4. Show solidarity – Wear a red ribbon
  5. Raise awareness – Tweet or post a Facebook status about World AIDS

So a brief rundown on HIV and AIDS

Q: What is HIV?
A: HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system – the body’s defence against diseases.

Q: Are HIV and AIDS the same?
A: No. When someone is described as living with HIV, they have the HIV virus in their body. A person is considered to have developed AIDS when the immune system is so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope.

Q: How is HIV passed on?
A: 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)

Q: I don’t know anyone with HIV… do I?
A: Today there are more people than ever before living with HIV, but less people report knowing someone with HIV. People with HIV generally look healthy and many do not find it easy to tell other people, so you may not realise if someone you know if HIV positive.

Q: Is there a cure for HIV?
A: No, but 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. If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment may be less effective.

Q: How can I protect myself and others from HIV infection?
A: Always use a condom when having vaginal or anal sex. You also may want to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex although the risk of transmission of HIV is much lower. You can get free condoms from a sexual health clinic. Never share needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.

Did you know?

  • Over a quarter of people with HIV don’t know they are infected.
  • For someone diagnosed today at 35, the average age of diagnosis, life expectancy is over 72.
  • The most common treatment today for someone diagnosed with HIV early is one pill, once or twice a day.
  • Lots of people with HIV work and their HIV does not affect their working life.
  • With the right medical help, the vast majority (approximately 99 per cent) of HIV positive women can give birth to healthy uninfected babies.
  • There is no known case of HIV ever being transmitted at school yet some schools still refuse to accept children with HIV.
  • HIV affects all ages. One in six people living with HIV were over 50. Last year one in ten people diagnosed were aged 16 to 24.

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. There are 25 names on my list this year of friends and loved ones that this disease has taken and another 10 more who have HIV in my life. AIDS has taken enough people I know and loved. Please visit Light to Unite to light a candle for our friends and family who have contracted HIV/AIDS, and to shed some light on this issue.

I’ll get off my Soap Box now. Thank you and good night.

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