World AIDS day is observed every year on December 1 since its initiation in 1988. It is an international day dedicated to spreading awareness regarding the AIDS pandemic and the HIV infection, and the mourning of all those individuals affected by this disease.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome which is a fatal condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The HIV virus invades the human immune system of the patient and reduces its resistance to other diseases. AIDS is a set of symptoms and illnesses that develop at the final stage of HIV infection, if left untreated. With adequate treatment, the lifespan of HIV infected individuals can be prolonged to an extent.
This day is observed by healthcare organizations across the world, support groups, non-governmental organisations and even government and health officials, often with awareness and education regarding this issue.
Currently, around 38 million people are living with HIV or AIDS. Among them, approximately 81% of people with HIV globally knew about their HIV status in 2019.
Till this day, around 75.7 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the pandemic. More than 32.7 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, despite it being identified only in 1983, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Incredible amount of scientific research has been conducted for the treatment of HIV, there are laws to protect people afflicted with HIV and we understand so much more about this condition.
Although the masses have a generic idea about this disease, people are still unclear on the facts about how to protect themselves and others. Societal stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with this disease.
We need initiatives like the World AIDS Day because it reminds people and the government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education.
- 2/3 or all people battling HIV live in the WHO African region. This is around a total of 25.7 million people.
- The low and middle-income countries (LMIC) are the most hit region with HIV.
- In the last two decades, the world has observed a drop of 39% of new HIV infections and a 51% reduction in the number of HIV related deaths. 15 million lives have been saved due to antiretroviral therapy.
Let us do away with some common myths about the HIV infection.:
- HIV is not transmitted through touch or any other physical contact like kissing, hugging, sharing food, etc.
- There is no cure for HIV whereas with treatment one can live a long and healthy life.
- HIV is not associated to any specific community, sexual orientation or any such thing whatsoever.
The universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV is the red ribbon. The idea of the red ribbon was conceived in 1991 by a group of 12 artists for a project for visual AID, a New York HIV awareness arts organisation.
In 2020, the world’s attention has been focused on the covid-19 pandemic, and how lives and livelihoods are affected by it. As we adapt to change of world dynamics in covid-19, we should be careful not to draw a blind eye to other public health issues such as AIDS.
Since the inception of the first world AIDS day about 30 years ago, a vast amount of progress to prevent and treat HIV has been made – to help people with HIV live long, healthier lives and prevent HIV transmission.