World AIDS Day makes us aware of the fact that the disease is not going away. There have been vast improvements in the treatment of AIDS, and in community awareness around the world. Where progress has been made, there are also setbacks such as fighting viruses that are strongly resistant to current medicines and treatments.
In India, Murugesh, (name changed), was diagnosed 20 years ago. Like every other HIV infected person, the married father of two children thought he was looking at death when he tested positive two decades ago. “I re-discovered my will to live. I decided to fight against it till my last breath,” smiled Murugesh. In India, antiretroviral therapy (ART), has saved thousands of lives. One challenge for India is to treat younger victims of AIDS, as statistics show that only 34 percent of them are actually treated.
Professor Georg Behrens, president of the German Aids Society, said that about 30 percent of the victims of AIDS are unaware and are not diagnosed. In Germany, the numbers of AIDS sufferers has risen, mostly due to lack of awareness of infection and continuing high-risk practices that spread the disease to others.
Carriers are at greatest risk of passing along the disease just after they contract it themselves. The concentration of the virus in the body is highest in the early stages of the illness. This means that if a person is not aware of their condition, they will continue to engage in high-risk sexual activities. This behavior can make it impossible to keep up with the numbers of people affected. Awareness through World AIDS Day will have some effect in closing this gap in an individual’s knowledge of the disease.
UNICEF says in a new report, released on Friday, that over 850,000 infants have been spared from the HIV virus since 2005. However, disturbing trends among youths requires urgent action to help this vulnerable group. Most of those teens affected are in African countries.
In the Philippines, Herminio Coloma, Jr., stated that their country’s focus is, “on the youth that constitutes the most vulnerable sector,” he stressed. Coloma said the Aquino government is particularly targeting the youth aged 15 to 24, who he said are the most at-risk in terms of risk of contracting the HIV virus.
In China, Arie Hoekman, the UN Population Fund’s representative, reports about 40 percent of new cases around the world are young people. President Xi Jinping stressed that the public should move past discrimination and provide timely and effective treatment and support for HIV carriers and AIDS patients.
In the US, focus is on homosexual couples, who still embrace myths about AIDs and HIV. For instance, one myth is that if you are monogamous you do not have to worry about contracting AIDS. However, more gay men contract HIV from their regular partner than do from sex with strangers.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control, (DHEC), is asking that more testing be done to support early treatment and prevention of the spread of AIDS to others. Janet Tapp, of the DHEC, says more than 15,000 people in South Carolina are living with HIV or AIDS. For South Carolina, the theme for World AIDS Day is, “shared responsibility.”
Perhaps World AIDS Day will make people and nations globally aware of this shared responsibility.
By Lisa M Pickering