30 years of AIDS aware­ness

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

IT’S been 30 long years that the world has been ob­serv­ing World Aids Day. The prac­tice is meant to spread aware­ness about the epi­demic that has killed al­most one mil­lion peo­ple in 2017 alone.

Since the epi­demic be­gan, 77.3 mil­lion peo­ple have been in­fected with hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus (HIV) and 35.4 mil­lion have died from HIV-Aids-re­lated ill­nesses.

The first clin­i­cal ev­i­dence for ac­quired im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency syn­drome (Aids) was found in 1981 and the chim­panzees in Cen­tral Africa has been iden­ti­fied as the first source of HIV in hu­mans.

The United Na­tions es­ti­mates that there have been 36.9 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing with HIV in 2017 alone and of those, 35.1 mil­lion were adults and 1.8 mil­lion were chil­dren. In 2017, 1.8 mil­lion are said to have been in­fected. Since the epi­demic be­gan, 77.3 mil­lion peo­ple have been in­fected with HIV and 35.4 mil­lion have died from HIVAids-re­lated ill­nesses.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the num­ber who died from HIV-Aids in 2017 world­wide is a 52 per­cent drop from 2004 and a 34 per­cent drop from 2010. Ac­cord­ing to UN data, the 1.8 mil­lion new di­ag­noses in 2017 was a 56 per­cent drop from the 2.8 mil­lion in 2000.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) based in the US says that gay and bi­sex­ual men are the most af­fected as 66 per­cent of new HIV di­ag­noses world­wide in 2017 came from male-to-male sex­ual con­tact. Twenty-four per­cent came from het­ero­sex­ual con­tact; 70 per­cent of those di­ag­nosed were women.

There is YET no cure or vac­cine for AIDS but an­tiretro­vi­ral (ARV) drugs can con­trol the virus and help pre­vent trans­mis­sion. An­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy usu­ally uses three drugs tar­geted to re­duce a per­son's HIV level in the blood. Ac­cord­ing to WHO, the com­bi­na­tion of drugs can “max­i­mally sup­press the HIV virus and stop the pro­gres­sion of HIV dis­ease. ART also pre­vents on­ward trans­mis­sion of HIV.” Fur­ther­more, if the vi­ral load re­mains un­de­tectable, “you have ef­fec­tively no risk of trans­mit­ting HIV to an HIVneg­a­tive part­ner through sex,” the CDC says. The CDC says peo­ple can reach an un­de­tectable vi­ral load within six months. But miss­ing a dose can in­crease the load and the risk of trans­mit­ting HIV.

Thirty years ago some­one di­ag­nosed with HIV or AIDS meant only one to two more years of life. With treat­ment, that has changed. “To­day, some­one di­ag­nosed with HIV and treated be­fore the dis­ease is far ad­vanced can live nearly as long as some­one who does not have HIV,” the CDC says.

Health pro­fes­sion­als still ad­vise ab­sti­nence from sex, re­duc­ing the num­ber of sex­ual part­ners and us­ing con­doms cor­rectly every time you have sex as ways to re­duce the risk of HIV ex­po­sure through sex. How­ever, what re­ally ag­gra­vates the sit­u­a­tion is the re­fusal not to get tested if one is sex­u­ally ac­tive or en­gage in high risk sex­ual be­hav­iors. Just like any­thing else, ig­no­rance can kill.

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