2018 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the loss of my baby brother, Keith, to AIDS-related complications. He was twenty-nine-years-old. Not a cause for celebration, but a time to recommit to spreading awareness about this disease that does not discriminate. AIDS isn’t the ‘epidemic’ it once was, but any disease whose victims still number in the millions is not something to become complacent over.
HIV/AIDS at its worst didn’t just take lives. Families, friendships, marriages, livelihoods and more were left broken and devastated in its wake. Too many AIDS patients died alienated and alone but for the simple lack of knowledge.
Pledge today to be a part of the solution–to learn and share the FACTS about this killer. Nothing should be taken for granted. Sexually active adults should be having the AIDS-conversation. Parents should be talking to their children–especially their young daughters. The old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the case of of HIV/AIDS, it could also save a life. Be safe. Be smart. Be informed. –FD
Observed annually on March 10th, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a day to empower people everywhere with knowledge and information regarding this disease and the often overlooked impact that it has on women and girls.
On this educational day, each year, groups, organizations, state and local health officials and thousands of people share the facts regarding HIV/AIDS and the impact on them.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Some of the action that is taken, or can be taken, on this day is:
- Educating women and girls how to prevent HIV/AIDS
- Encouraging more women and girls to get tested
- Providing services to those living with the disease
- Doing whatever it takes to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS
Use #WomenGirlsHIVAIDSAwarenessDay to post on social media.
National Woman and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is coordinated by the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alongside many organizations that play a critical role in the observance in communities across the nation.
10 Facts About HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
As a result of recent advances in access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives. In addition, it has been confirmed that ART prevents onward transmission of HIV.
An estimated 20.9 million people were receiving HIV treatment in mid-2017. However, globally, only 53% of the 36.7 million people living with HIV in 2016 were receiving ART.
Progress has also been made in preventing and eliminating mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2016, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV, or 1.1 million women, received antiretrovirals (ARVs).
WHO has released a set of normative guidelines and provides support to countries in formulating and implementing policies and programmes to improve and scale up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for all people in need.
This fact file provides current data on the disease, and ways to prevent and treat it.
Fact 1: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects cells of the immune system
Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body’s ability to fend off some infections and other diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.
Fact 2: HIV can be transmitted in several ways
HIV can be transmitted through:
* unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person;
* transfusions of contaminated blood or blood products ortransplantation of contaminated tissue;
* the sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and solutions (needles, syringes) or tattooing equipment;
* through the use of contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments;
* the transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
Fact 3: There are several ways to prevent HIV transmission
Key ways to prevent HIV transmission:
* practice safe sexual behaviours such as using condoms;
* get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV to prevent onward transmission;
* avoid injecting drugs, or if you do, always use sterile needles and syringes;
* ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV;
* access voluntary medical male circumcision if you live in one of the 14 countries where this intervention is promoted;
* if you have HIV start antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible for your own health and to prevent HIV transmission to your sexual or drug using partner or to your infant (if you are pregnant or breastfeeding);
* use pre-exposure prophylaxis prior to engaging in high risk behaviour; demand post-exposure prophylaxis if there is the risk that you have been exposed to HIV infection in both occupational and non-occupational settings.
Fact 4: 36.7 million people are living with HIV worldwide.
Globally, an estimated 36.7 million (34.0–39.8 million) people were living with HIV in 2015, and 1.8 million (1.5–2.0 million) of these were children. The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 2.1 million (1.8–2.4 million) people were newly infected with with HIV in 2015. An estimated 35 million people have died from HIV-related causes so far, including 1.1 million (940 000–1.3 million) in 2015.
Fact 5: Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevents HIV from multiplying in the body
If the reproduction of HIV stops, then the body’s immune cells are able to live longer and provide the body with protection from infections. Effective ART results in a reduction in viral load, the amount of virus in the body, greatly reducing the risk of transmitting the virus sexual partners. If the HIV positive partner in a couple is on effective ART, the likelihood of sexual transmission to the HIV-negative partner can be reduced by as much as 96%. Expanding coverage of HIV treatment contributes to HIV prevention efforts.
Fact 6: As of mid-2016, 18.2 million people were receiving ART worldwide
Of these, more than 16 million lived in low- and middle-income countries. In 2016, WHO released the second edition of the “Consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection.” These guidelines present several new recommendations, including the recommendation to provide lifelong ART to all children, adolescents and adults, including all pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV, regardless of CD4 cell count as soon as possible after diagnosis. WHO has also expanded earlier recommendations to offer pre-exposure prophylaxis of HIV (PrEP) to selected people at substantial risk of acquiring HIV. Alternative first-line treatment regimens are also recommended.
Fact 7: HIV testing can help to ensure treatment for people in need
Access to HIV testing and medicines should be dramatically accelerated in order to reach the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. HIV testing reach is still limited, as an estimated 40% of people with HIV or over 14 million people remain undiagnosed and don’t know their infection status. WHO is recommending innovative HIV-self-testing and partner notification approaches to increase HIV testing services among undiagnosed people.
Fact 8: An estimated 1.8 million children are living with HIV
According to 2015 figures most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected through transmission from their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Close to 150 000 children (110 000–190 000) became newly infected with HIV in 2015.
Fact 9: Elimination of mother-to-child-transmission is becoming a reality
Access to preventive interventions remains limited in many low- and middle-income countries. But progress has been made in some areas such as prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and keeping mothers alive. In 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV – 1.1 million women – received antiretrovirals worldwide. In 2015, Cuba was the first country declared by WHO as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. In June 2016, 3 other countries: Armenia, Belarus and Thailand were also validated for eliminating mother-to-child HIV.
Fact 10: HIV is the greatest risk factor for developing active TB disease
In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million (11%) of the 10.4 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV-positive. In the same year approximately 390 000 deaths from tuberculosis occurred among people living with HIV. The WHO African Region accounted for around 75% of the estimated number of HIV-related TB deaths.
Compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO)