Held on the 1st of December every year, World AIDS day is an opportunity for us all to remember those who have passed, show our support for those currently living with HIV, and it’s also a time to reflect. This year’s theme is Leading with Science, Uniting for Action. What strides have we as a society made towards the battle against HIV and AIDS? What will you do this World AIDS Day?
The basic facts
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Just by its name we know it’s a virus, and just like any other virus it reproduces or multiples itself by taking over a cell of its host. The host (and therefore the virus) can only affect human beings. This virus weakens (and therefore makes your immune system deficient) by destroying cells that normally fight off disease and infection.
Unlike other viruses (like the flu) we just can’t clear this one from our system. We still don’t know why. We do know that HIV tends to lurk in our system for long periods, even years, invading and taking over T-cells or CD4 cells which help protect our immune system. HIV invades these cells, finally taking over and destroying enough of these cells, leaving our bodies unable to fight any infections. When this happens, an HIV infection often leads to AIDS.
AIDS stands for acquired immuno deficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of HIV infection. Breaking down the name it tells us its acquired (after birth), affects your immune system, making it deficient or not working the way it should be. AIDS is a syndrome or collection of symptoms and diseases.
How are we doing statistically?
Thanks to greater access to treatment, we now have more people living with HIV. According to the UNAIDS Worls AIDS report for 2011:
- There was an estimated 34 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2010, up 17% from 2001.
- New annual HIV infections fell 21% between 1997 and 2010
- The number of people dying of AIDS-related causes fell to 1.8 million in 2010, down from a peak of 2.2 million from the peak in the mid-2000s
- Proportion of women living with HIV has remained stable at 50% globally
- The Caribbean has the second highest regional HIV prevalence after subSaharan Africa, although the epidemic has slowed considerably since the mid-1990s
- Unprotected sex is the primary mode of transmission in the Caribbean
- The HIV epidemics in Latin America are generally stable. A steady decrease in new annual HIV infections since 1996 leveled off in the early 2000s and has remained steady since then at 100,00 each year
- The HIV epidemic in North America and Western and Central Europe remains stubbornly steady, despite universal access to treatment, care and support and widespread awareness of the epidemic and the causes of HIV infection.
Share this information with others and tell others your plans for taking action for World AIDS Day. On twitter use the hashtag #WAD2011