Keeping HIV Under Control Means More Testing, Treatment
By Stephanie Guler - Senior Content & Social Media Developer | November 30th, 2011
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, a very special day dedicated to raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, and to remember those who have lost their lives because of it.
According to UNAIDS, the number of people living with HIV increased from about 8 million in 1990 to about 33 million at the end of 2009. Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, 30 million adults and children around the world have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Due to these rapidly increasing numbers, the theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero”, which according to the organization’s official website means zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths. This theme will continue until 2015, and during this time campaign leaders are hoping to help increase access to testing, medical treatment, and support worldwide, which is something even the most powerful countries still struggle with.
One example is the United States, where a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that three out of four people with HIV in the U.S. do not have their illness under control.
To make the facts a little scarier, about 20 percent of American adults infected with HIV have no idea about their illness. Sheer ignorance of the infection, combined with lack of proper medical support for patients greatly increases the risk of spreading HIV to others, and this problem is clearly contributing to the rising number of new diagnoses each year.
Considering that effective anti-HIV drugs have been available for patients for more than 15 years and numbers are still this high, there is a whole lot of work to be done in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden told Reuters Health, “It’s now very clear that we have the tools to stop HIV in an individual and to stop the spread of HIV in a community. We also know that taking treatment for HIV can prevent people from progressing to AIDS and from developing many of the serious complications of HIV, which unfortunately does remain and incurable infection.”
However, research has shown that suppressing HIV with treatment greatly reduces the risk of complications and also decreases the spread of the infection to others by 96 percent!
So how can governments, non-profits, doctors and individuals help to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
The new World AIDS Day campaign hopes to increase the number of HIV tests administered, as well as widespread treatment for 100 percent of patients. Globally, the campaign hopes to reduce mother-to-child transmission and promote voluntary male circumcision, according to a report by Reuters Health.
For the United States, it’s all about increasing the level of access to health care, which will help prevent even more spreading of the illness.
Dr. Frieden told Reuters Health, “In this country, we already do a very good job with maternal-child transmission prevention. The fact that nearly three quarters of Americans living with HIV still have the virus circulating in their bodies, damaging their brains and immune systems, and putting their sexual partner at risk is something we think we can do a lot about.”
The plan is to target groups of people at the greatest risk for contracting HIV, including young gay and bisexual black men. The reason for the focus on this particular community is because HIV and syphilis rates are continually rising within the population, putting many other people at risk.
Nevertheless, all sexually active males and females (regardless of sexual preference) in a non-committed relationship should be tested for STDs annually, including HIV. All pregnant women should also be tested for HIV as soon as possible, to prevent spreading the infection to her baby.
HIV tests are very simple and quick, and commonly use blood or oral fluid to get results. Some places in the United States even offer free testing, so there should be no excuses about getting checked out.
While governments, health organizations and non-profits are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, individuals must also do their part to protect themselves and the people around them.
In honor of World AIDS Day 2011, take some time to learn the facts about HIV prevention and treatment, and don’t forget to get yourself tested (and bring your partner too!)
This article was written by the medical research team at WhereismyDoctor.com
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