World AIDS Day commemorates its 30-year-anniversary on Dec. 1, 2018. “Know Your Status” is this year’s theme. Understanding the importance of knowing one’s status is of the utmost importance.
Since its inception at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention, United Nations agencies along with governments and civil organizations worldwide set aside this day to focus on awareness and education. Each year World AIDS Day has a different theme but the basic tenet remains the same; awareness.
Nonetheless, barriers to education and testing remain a problem in many countries.
Stereotypical predjudices cause some to avoid knowing their status. That stigma is one hurdle that keeps people self-care. Embarrassment or denial might be other causes for avoidance. Perhaps, the latter two are the most harmful since they are self-sabotaging behavior.
Obtaining the correct information can overcome help elevate these pressures. World AIDS Day is designed to increase awareness about the disease. Their intent is to provide information and offer education.
UNAIDS Study Data
UNAIDS has the ambitious goal of diagnosing 90 percent of those who are HIV/AIDS positive; providing antiviral therapy (ART) to 90 percent, and achieving viral suppression of 90 percent, otherwise know as 90-90-90, by 2020. In order for this to happen, people who have unprotected sex must be tested.
The agency reports that great advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of illness. One in four people living with HIV/AIDS knows their status.
In 2018, UNAIDS reports the numbers of known cases:
- East and Southern Africa; 19.6 million.
- Western and Central Africa; 6.1 million.
- Asia and Pacific; 2.2 million.
- Western/Central Europe and North America; 2.2 million.
- Latin America; 1.8 million.
- Eastern Europe and Central Asia; 1.4 million.
- Carribean; 310,000
- The Middle East and North Africa; 220,000.
FDA HIV/AIDS Resources
In the United States tests can be done in private at home, the local department of health, or in the doctor’s office. The Federal Drug Administration website offers a database of testing sites and a detailed list of approved HIV test kits. All laboratory testing, except research, performed on humans in the U.S. is regulated under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA).
Stories From Young HIV/AIDS Victims
In Homabay, Kenya, a 16-year-old young man named Collins contracted HIV as a baby, when he was two his mom died. However, he did not learn about his status until his diagnosis at about age 5.
His decision to keep his status quiet is due to the negativity another boy experienced. Collins remembers his classmate in primary school whose HIV-positive status was well known. He was sensitive to others talking about him. The boy died last year after refusing medication for years.
Fortunately for him and other patients, the Kandiege Health Center is there for them. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation supports the center. Its staff offer support to adolescents who attend a weekly support group called the Kandiege Ariel Club.
About two-dozen HIV-positive kids who have the freedom to share their emotions and experiences at the meeting. They are able to discuss their feelings with peers in a safe and non-judgemental environment.
Many of the youth at the center are orphans struggling to deal with a difficult disease and trying to live productive lives. Being able to discuss his financial insecurities with his peers is vital.
Collins would like to go to college and become an electrical engineer but he is feeling disillusioned.
As an orphan, he has lived with other relatives for the better part of his life. After his grandmother died, 12-year-old Collins moved in with his uncle, a farmer. Finances prevented him from continuing his schooling.
Another member of the group is 15-year-old Grace. She lives with her grandmother, and she recently had to stop school for lack of funds. She takes care of four younger siblings. Grace’s dad died of pneumonia and her mom disserted them.
Grace has known she her HIV-positive status since she was 12. She contracted the disease when, at 8, she was raped. Between the assault and her diagnosis, she shouldered the trauma alone.
Her life is hard with an infirm grandmother and siblings she is forced to scavenge and sell firewood to buy food. The Kandiege Ariel Club is a safe-haven for her.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
UNAIDS: World AIDS Day 2018 theme encourages everyone to know their HIV status
NCBI: UNAIDS 90–90–90 targets to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020 are not realistic: comment on “Can the UNAIDS 90–90–90 target be achieved? A systematic analysis of national HIV treatment cascades”
FDA: HIV Testing
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation: Facing Stigma Together in Homabay
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Meredith James’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License