December 1 is marked as World AIDS Day. It is observed every year to educate people about HIV AIDS. HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that attacks the immune system of humans and makes it weak. With a weak immune system, HIV-infected people become prone to deadly diseases, and that condition is termed as AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981, AIDS has caused the death of over 40.4 million people globally, whereas over 39.0 million people were living with this virus at the end of 2022. Raising awareness about HIV/AIDS is thus very important to make people understand its impact at large and to educate them on the measures to prevent it.

Historical Context

1988 marks the year when the first World AIDS Day was observed. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 1 December will be regarded as World HIV AIDS Day every year. The first-ever World AIDS Day theme was focused on kids and young people so that they could be targeted and educated about the impact of AIDS on families.
Here are some key events related to World AIDS Day history:

  • 1920s – A stain of the HIV-1 virus emerged in Kinshasa, which had a close similarity to a virus found mainly in chimpanzees
  • 1981 – For the first time, AIDS was reported by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
  • 1986 – Over 1 million Americans were affected by AIDS, as per news reports
  • 1987 – The first drug, zidovudine, was made available for HIV treatment
  • 2013 – A functional therapy to limit the impact of the disease was developed

Global HIV/AIDS Statistics

Over 85.6 million people worldwide have been affected by HIV ever since the prevalence of the virus. Moreover, 40.4 million people have died of this disease. The burden of the epidemic varies per region across countries. The African region is the most affected hotspot of HIV, with 1 in 25 adults living with HIV, as per WHO. This region accounts for over two-thirds of people living with HIV worldwide.

One of the key challenges in the way to overcome AIDS is that people may not be aware that they have been infected with the virus for a long time. Moreover, they are hesitant to take HIV tests due to social stigma and scare of the disease.

Understanding HIV/AIDS

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a type of virus that attacks the immune system of a body. HIV attacks the cells of the body that help in fighting infections. Thus, it makes people all the more vulnerable to diseases and infections. If not treated on time, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

HIV gets transmitted if you come into contact with some bodily fluids of an HIV-infected person, such as blood, semen and pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Sharing injections and drug equipment can also transmit HIV. However, the most common mode of transmission of AIDS is unprotected sex (sex without a condom).

There are various myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS and how it transmits. You may note that HIV isn’t transmitted through air and water, mosquito bites, shaking hands, sharing toilets, and so on.

Prevention and Education

Education and awareness are the best tools to prevent HIV/AIDS. Evidence shows that areas with successful programs to educate and inform people have seen a lowered rate of HIV infections.

HIV infection can be limited by using suitable preventive methods such as;

  • Using a condom during intercourse
  • Getting tested regularly for HIV
  • Going through voluntary male circumcision,
  • Through antiretroviral therapy (ART), including oral PrEP and long-acting products, etc.

Awareness about HIV occurrence and spread is extremely important to end the epidemic. Hence, maximum emphasis is laid on the widespread reach of information on preventing HIV/AIDS through community awareness programs.

Treatment and Progress

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a therapy initiated to treat HIV with two or more medicines combined. To increase the likelihood of success in improving the lives of people living with HIV, medical practitioners use at least three drugs while prescribing ART therapy. The medicines reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to stop them from multiplying and infecting others.

Many recent advances in HIV therapy have further revolutionized the treatment of the disease. Long-acting ART (LA-ART) is one such therapy introduced in 2021 that is regarded as a therapy with high potential.

However, implementing and achieving success has been a challenge, especially in many underdeveloped and developing countries. Most of these problems are associated with the lack of required infrastructure for the control programs, non-availability of medicines, co-morbidities, and poor adherence to drugs, etc.

Stigma and Discrimination

HIV/AIDS has a huge social impact on individuals and families. It weakens the support system in society and drains family income caused by loss of work. Moreover, the stigma of being HIV-affected may lead to feelings of shame and despair. Stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS can affect their emotional and mental health.

Hence, efforts should be taken to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and to promote inclusivity. Talking about HIV openly can help in this direction to normalize people. You can use social media tools to educate them to stop the HIV stigma.

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Global Initiatives

Over the years, many global initiatives and programs at the international level have been featured to combat HIV/AIDS. Along with the support of WHO, the involvement of NGOs, governments, and healthcare organizations across the globe has been immense. These organizations are promoting HIV testing and creating awareness among high-risk groups. All these initiatives and programs have been crucial in limiting the number of HIV patients and reducing HIV infection rates in many HIV/AIDS hotspots across the globe.

Getting Involved

While the global and regional organizations are contributing their part, individuals and communities at the local level can also contribute to the cause. There are many ways to get involved in the fight against HIV.

  • You can volunteer your services by joining an NGO or any association working towards HIV eradication
  • You may also donate to AIDS Charity programs to contribute funds to several national and international nonprofits devoted to this cause
  • You may also participate in candlelight vigils hosted globally on International AIDS Day. You can check online to find more information on the same
  • You can create social media groups to educate and make people aware of the impact of HIV and spread knowledge

Future Prospects

World Awareness Day serves as an occasion to call the world community to unite forces for increased awareness and action to end HIV/AIDS. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have outlined ending the threat of HIV AIDS on public health by 2030.

The world is committed to eradicating HIV, which can be done by eliminating the fear associated with the disease along with the stigma of HIV AIDS and ignorance. With awareness programs and effective treatment, the world is striving to end this epidemic soon.

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To Conclude

HIV/AIDS has affected millions of lives worldwide. AIDS is termed as one of the major public health concerns globally, and the reason for the loss of over 2 million lives every year. World AIDS Day is a stark reminder for people to build compassion for the ones living with this deadly disease. The day also marks the remembrance of the people who lost their lives due to this virus and the families that were impacted.

It is also a day that reminds people about the significance of the protective coverage of health insurance against life-threatening diseases to cover hospitalization and other charges incurred by the policyholder due to the diseases linked to HIV/AIDS.

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