Those of us who were alive during the 1980s must remember the hard-hitting adverts about the risk of the transmission of HIV and the disease it causes; AIDS. Despite the reduction in public awareness, it has not gone away. We still need World AIDS Day, coming to you every 1st December, to raise awareness of this disease.
What is AIDS?
AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is not a single condition, but a range of illnesses resulting from a deficiency of the immune system related to the infection of the HIV virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Most people infected with the HIV virus will initially experience a mild flu and then have no symptoms, sometimes for many years.
Some people with HIV never see their condition develop, but they are at risk of illness and even dying from conditions that they would normally expect to make a full recovery. HIV does not actually kill people; it’s the secondary infections with tuberculosis being the most common. The reason is HIV/AIDS reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.
The last set of statistics relating to global AIDS numbers became available in 2016. According to UNAIDS (The United Nation Programme on AIDS and HIV):
• There were 36.7 million instances of HIV infection at the end of 2015
• Around 45% of HIV infections are in southern and south-eastern Africa, with women and girls making up some 59% of infected cases
• 2.1 million of recorded HIV infections were children
• The disease is growing at a rate of around 1.6 million new infections every year
• Some 19.5 million – that’s just over half – were accessing antiretroviral therapy
• 1 million people die every year from the illness, with over 35 million dead since identification of the disease.
However, it is not all bad news. Annual deaths from HIV/AIDS have fallen by 48% since 2005 when mortality peaked. Most of this is down to public health programmes and the advent of new treatments.
About World AIDS Day
Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day is at the forefront of raising awareness, providing resources and campaigning to fight this disease. It happens every 1st December, bringing together all interested parties in uniting in the fight while commemorating its victims. World AIDS Day was the designation of any global health day; arguably, it has inspired many more special health awareness days and weeks since then.
HIV/AIDS may not be in the media as much as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but the battle is far from over. In the UK alone, 6,000 more people receive the devastating news that they are HIV positive.
There are four main reasons for the day:
• To raise awareness of the condition
• To raise funds for treatment
• To fight the prejudice about people infected with HIV
• Education on how to protect yourself against HIV.
Ultimately, it’s important that we all remember that the disease is still here.
What are the Recent Advances in AIDS Medicine?
Today, most people with HIV/AIDS can control their condition with antiretroviral treatments, meaning lower mortality rates and longer lives. At present, they still need to take the usual precautions that AIDS charities have always pushed regarding reducing the risk of spreading the condition to others.
Reports from Spain suggest progress in fighting back against Hepatitis C infections in HIV patients thanks to the new generation of antiviral medication. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of HIV positive patients with chronic hepatitis C dropped from 22% to 12%, a significant drop. Curing Hep C improves life quality according to a survey of people living with the condition. They reported overall improved energy level, reduced pain and mental and emotional wellbeing. Significantly, all participants in a trial of a new drug for Hep C were cured.