1st December =World AIDs Day
HIV= Human Immunodeficiency Virus - A Virus which attacks the body’s immune system. It can be passed through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment[i].
The Red Ribbon is the international symbol of awareness and support for those affected by HIV/ AIDs; the first of the now ubiquitous ribbon symbols. I try to make a point of trying to wear a Red Ribbon all year round as I feel so strongly that more needs to be done to promote prevention of the spread of this virus and work towards securing a cure that is free to all.
I was fortunate enough to attend a girl’s secondary school that repeatedly impressed upon its pupils the importance of taking a loving approach to our bodies, making it their mission to teach the very real realities of HIV and AIDs to its students. With stats such as HIV being the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age[ii], I am grateful that prevention, as far as possible, was drummed into us. However, conversations with others have forced me to accept that this was not the experience for the majority and that subsequent generations who, like me, arrived after the hysteria of the TV ads in the late 80’s - early 90’s have become almost reckless with our health. I am left saddened by the comments from people that mistakenly believe that the worst situation that their inability to practice safe sex will be an unwanted pregnancy or the “inconvenience of herpes’”!
What is often confused with being a ‘cure’ is the fact that here in the UK, our beloved NHS (National Health Service) affords us with free access to [sexual] health provision (contraception, testing and treatments) and life saving medicines for the treatment of HIV/ AIDs. Unfortunately the UK remains one of the few countries to offer its citizens free health care; people living with HIV/ AIDs in other parts of the world are forced to make hard choices surrounding access to life saving drugs and tools for self protection (condoms, financial self sufficiency).
Nearly half of all new diagnoses were acquired heterosexually (2,990; 48 per cent). Of these, over half were probably acquired in the UK in 2011, compared to only 27 per cent in 2002[iii].
Perhaps, as we see more people live longer with the illnesses, we will eventually find a cure but for now I hope you will all join me in promoting the World Health Organisation’s ‘Getting to Zero[iv]’ campaign: Zero deaths from AIDs related illness. Zero discrimination.
How to reduce your risk of getting or transmitting HIV or Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)[v]
- Always use a condom correctly and consistently when having sex with new or casual partners, until all partners have had a sexual health screen.
- Avoid overlapping sexual relationships and reduce the number of sexual partners.
- Get screened regularly if you are in one of the higher risk groups:
- Men who have sex with men should have an HIV and STI screen at least annually, and every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
- People from the black African and Caribbean communities should have an HIV test, and a regular HIV and STI screen if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
[iii] Source Health Protection Agency Press release 29112012
[v] Source Health Protection Agency Press release 29112012