World Aids Day has come and gone for another year, but we hope the message hasn’t.
That’s why we decided to publish this column about HIV and AIDS today instead of Monday, the actual World Aids Day.
While we have come a long way in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we have a long way to go.
The first HIV antibody test became available to the world in 1985. Today there are about 33 million people throughout the world who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and while infections peaked in the 1990s, it is believed that there won’t be any big epidemics of the disease outside the borders of Africa.
But that doesn’t mean we need to let our guard down.
Firstly, every one on the planet should be tested for HIV, especially those who don’t practice safe sex methods.
Secondly, safe sex methods are a must as is the avoidance of risky behaviour.
There is a stigma in our society associated with having HIV/AIDS, but there shouldn’t be. You still can’t get HIV/AIDS from touching or hugging someone with the disease, from public restrooms or swimming pools or from sharing cups, utensils or telephones or by bug bites. You can get aids by sharing needles to take drugs and by having unprotected sex with an infected person.
It’s a disease that cost the lives of 2 million people around the world in 2007; 14,000 of those deaths were in the Caribbean region where 230,000 people are known to have HIV/AIDS.
In developed countries AIDS drugs have made the disease a manageable illness, meaning having AIDS in those countries doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence any more.
It is good that we set aside one day each year to recognise HIV and AIDS, but that’s not enough.
We must keep the HIV/AIDS battle uppermost in our thoughts at all time and make sure our children – at all ages – are aware of the disease and know how to prevent catching it.
It would appear that the world as a whole has turned a tide in the battle of HIV/AIDS, but it isn’t time to let down our guard.
The fight must continue and education about HIV/AIDS must go on, every day.