World Aids Day – Positive Change

10th December 2013

What do the staff at field base do whilst the Zulu groups are on project? Well, this phase, a little campaigning and awareness raising. Taking part in a campaign doesn’t necessarily mean marches and rallies, it can mean simply asking questions. On 1 Decenber, World Aids Day, we asked ourselves what do we really know about HIV and AIDS? 

DSC 0977 World Aids day is an event that has been running since 1988 and is a platform for international groups to stand united and support those living with HIV and those working in care and research. Globally there are 34 million people living with HIV and AIDS and although significant advances have been made in the treatment and rights of those affected it is still not enough.

The spotlight of World AIDS Day this year is given to the UNAIDS strategy “Getting to zero” – Zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination by 2015.For this vision to materialise, a wider basic understanding of HIV and an open dialogue is crucial. This is the focus of the UK campaign, Act Aware. Do you know the essentials? Can you spot the myths? We took this challenge on at fieldbase and would like to share our HIV knowledge with you. Here are the facts everyone should know about HIV:

HIV’s history is infamous and most people are aware that it has had a devastating impact in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prominent HIV positive celebrities, like Freddie Mercury have also inspired emotive and passionate campaigns that have challenged the fear and stigma that surrounded the disease. Perhaps because it has most affected groups that have been historically marginalised by society – homosexuals, sex workers, and women – the fight against HIV has come to encompass a wider fight against discrimination and for equality.

DSC 0986Basics: HIV stands for Human immunodeficiency virus and attacks the body’s immune system over time the immune system will become so weak it is unable to fight off any infections and at this stage someone is said to have AIDS – acquired immune deficiency syndrome. HIV is transmitted through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal secretions or breast milk but the most common way of getting infected is by sex without a condom and by sharing needles and injecting equipment with an infected person.

Fact 1: People living with HIV live a normal lifespan if diagnosed and treated in time.

 There is no cure for HIV, but today effective treatment can help to keep the immune system strong and prevent AIDS. This means people who are HIV positive can live normal active lives.

Fact 2: There is no job someone cannot do specifically because they have HIV.

Previously there were restrictions for dentists, surgeons and nurses, this is no longer the case, and recent changes to the law mean that no one living with HIV is restricted in their job choices due to their condition

Fact 3: Treatment can mean that people living with HIV are no longer infectious.

Infectiousness relates to how likely you are to pass on HIV to another person. Treatment of HIV reduces the amount of HIV in the body which not only protects the immune system but means that the risk of transmitting HIV to another person is reduced significantly. Treatment reduces infectiousness by 96%. This is why is really important to diagnose and start treatment early and how we can look towards zero HIV new infections.

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Fact 4: Men and women living with HIV can become parents of a HIV-free baby.

In the UK 99% of babies born to HIV positive mothers are HIV free. This is why globally investing in strong and efficient maternity support and female education is important for reducing the number of children living with HIV.

Fact 5: People living with HIV STILL face discrimination

1 in 3 people have faced stigma due to their HIV status. This final fact is the most important because it is what this campaign, World Aids day and we can change. No one should be in the dark about the facts about HIV and AIDS. Ask questions, find out using great resources like www.hivaware.org.uk what you should know and then tell someone else. We need to break the silence around HIV because silence breeds fear and rumours and stops people coming forward to get help. This means no whispering timidly about modes of transmission and risky lifestyle choices, no bending to the fear that HIV is incurable and therefore too tragic to talk about. We need to talk about HIV to make sure governments keep making it a priority and provide the infrastructure that is needed to get to zero. We can stop HIV transmission by simply knowing the facts, challenging the myths and acting aware.

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Interesting and essential resources:

http://www.unaids.org/en/ - go to the infographic page to see HIV in numbers and what is still needed.

http://www.worldaidsday.org/index.php for more on world aids day from the NAT – National Aids Trust and how you can do more.