On your way to work this morning, you may have noticed a few red ribbons around the place to celebrate World AIDS day. By wearing our ribbons, we make the pledge ensure that HIV and AIDS are kept at the forefront of global conversation.
‘HIV?’ You may think to yourself, “well, that was way back then in the 80s!’
Or even: ‘That doesn’t affect us here in the U.K, it’s got nothing to do with me.’
Would it surprise you to know that there are nearly 37 million people living as HIV positive globally? Of those, 103,000 are living in the UK and it is estimated that 1 in 5 of HIV positive cases are currently undiagnosed.
Out of that 37 million, less than half are currently receiving treatment.
Now, look around you, how many young people do you see, or have you seen today? Would it surprise you to hear that AIDS is the second biggest killer of young people globally, and is the largest killer in South Africa?
And for women, HIV is the biggest killer of those in the reproductive age (16- 44 years).
HIV is so heavily engrained with stigma, we as a society, don’t do enough to talk about it.
It’s no secret that the rise in cases of HIV transmission is due to the lack of tangible, up to date and accessible health education. This includes both formal and informal provision, particularly around sexual health.
This is where you and I step in…
HIV: The Facts
There are 4 main HIV transmission routes: sexual intercourse, mother-to-child transmission, sharing of un-sterilised sharps and blood transfusion.
If you are HIV positive and on routine treatment, there is next to a 0% risk of transmitting the virus, even without a condom during sexual intercourse.
In the U.K. HIV is still closely associated with those who identify as gay, despite the sheer amount of campaigning that has gone into wiping this conversation out.
Did you know that the stigma around HIV in the UK is still so great that it affects blood donations?
Current guidelines include a 12 month deferral criterion on those classed as MSM (Men who have sex with Men) or those who have ever worked in the sex industry. Follow the #freedomtodonate campaign to find out more.
HIV has lost its place on the global stage, to the point now where it is not mentioned in the 2016 UK aid agenda. The Department for International Development’s (DFID) policy on tackling AIDS expired in June 2015 and they have yet to release a new replacement.
Meanwhile, 3,300 people are dying from AIDS-related causes every single day.
You see, complacency is a killer. And if we don’t talk about HIV, it may well fall off the global radar. I urge you to use your voice and make sure that this doesn’t happen.
Wear a red ribbon and get the word out to the UK public on World AIDS day (1st Dec)
Get tested! It’s national HIV testing week and you can get tested at most clinics nearby
Take it further, do your bit and hold the DFID to account in the UK’s pledge to ending AIDS by 2030. Make DFID listen by signing the petition or write to your MP on the It Aint Over Campaign site (template email for MP included on website)
Want to know more? Read my experiences on sexual health education in Zambia here
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens people’s defence systems against infections and some types of cancer. As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient.
The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can take from 2 to 15 years to develop depending on the individual.