It has been more than 30 years since the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS in 1981 and since 1988, December 1st has been recognized as “World AIDS Day”. The intention of the day is to raise awareness, increase donations for HIV/AIDS related causes, fight prejudice and HIV/AIDS related stigma, and to simply remind people that HIV/AIDS has not gone away.
There are about 34 million people worldwide that are living with HIV with 2.5 million infected in 2011. In the United States there are around 1.2 million people living with HIV with about a fifth of them unaware of their infection, in Canada about 30% of those that are HIV positive are unaware of their infection. There are approximately 54,000 new infections each year in the United States.
This year, World AIDS Day is about “Getting to Zero.” Zero new HIV infections. Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths. Backed by the United Nations the “Getting to Zero” campaign runs until 2015 and builds on last year’s successful World AIDS Day “Light for Rights” initiative encompassing a range of vital issues identified by key affected populations.”
How can you help reduce HIV/AIDS? You can start by knowing the facts, HIV/AIDS has not gone away and although there are treatments for HIV, AIDS is still a significant health issue.
Next you can get tested! With as many as 20% – 30% of people estimated to be infection with HIV being unaware of their infection, it is possible for you to be infected and not know it. HIV infection does not always have symptoms. If you have already been tested, get tested again! The CDC recommends that Gay men be tested at least annually, with men who are more sexually active being tested every 3-6 months.
If you are HIV positive stay on course, treatment is a form of prevention. As an example of this, in 2008 a group of Swiss scientists produced the first ever consensus statement which asserted that an HIV positive person who is taking effective antiretroviral therapy, has an undetectable viral load and is free from STDs, has a negligible risk of infecting others with the virus.
One of the most impactful ways for us all to care for each other is to work together to fight HIV/AIDS Stigma. This site from Canada, on HIV Stigma provides some good information and perspectives on HIV stigma. The site also offers surprising information on the HIV incidence in Canada.
Too many people do not know they have HIV and too few people with HIV are receiving proper prevention, treatment, and care services. While science learns more, and new options for vaccines and prevention such as PrEP are explored, we must all take the initiative to get tested, and if we are HIV positive, take care of ourselves not only for ourselves but to do all we can to prevent the spread of HIV.