Today is the 20th World AIDS Day. Today is the day, we the people of the world unite against this horrible scourge on the human race. Together we can respect people with HIV/AIDS and Protect ourselves and others from the disease.
HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence it once was. People are living longer with the disease, but this has created a challenge for society, one that we are not living up to fully. People with HIV are being discriminated against and that is wrong. As Fr. Micheal Kelly puts it in the latest issue of Index (PDF) “HIV and AIDS do not stigmatise. People do.”
A large majority of those living with HIV live in the developing world but there are people with HIV in Ireland. Ireland has seen 4,781 recorded HIV infections since the mid 1980s but more and more are being diagnosed every year. In the first two quarters of this year 170 cases of HIV were diagnosed. This is down slightly on the same period last year which saw 174 cases diagnosed with HIV. For the full year of 2007 362 cases of HIV were diagnosed with is up from 337 in 2006 and 7.4% increase.
With the number of people of people in Ireland with HIV growing, society will have to grow to accept these people and allow them t live there lives with discrimination due to their HIV status.
Some facts about infections in Ireland in 2007 from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre
# 146 were reported as having been heterosexually acquired.
# 54 new diagnoses in patients with injecting drug use
# 75 new diagnoses in men who have sex with men
# HIV infection was newly diagnosed in eight children
# there were 117 babies born to HIV infected mothers in Ireland during 2007; 91 are not infected, 25 remain of indeterminate status (i.e. do not meet the criteria for HIV infection and are <18 months at time of test) and one was infected.
# Of the newly diagnosed cases in 2007, 130 were female and 209 were male
# 29 women were reported to be pregnant at time of HIV diagnosis
# The mean age at HIV diagnosis was 32.5 years. The mean age among females was 30.4 years and among males was 33.9 years
# 107 were born in Ireland, 96 were born in sub-Saharan Africa and 48 were born in other regions
# 187 were asymptomatic and 28 were diagnosed with AIDS at the same time as HIV diagnosis.
# A total of 957 AIDS cases have been reported to the end of 2007 of which 405 are reported
to have died
So far this year the facts are as follows:
# total number of HIV infections up to the end of June 2008 is 4,951
# 82 (64.6%) were acquired through heterosexual contact
# 29 (22.8%) were among men who have sex with men
# 15 (11.8%) were among injecting drug users
# 104 (61.2%) were male and 66 (38.8%) were female
# 15 (23.1%) were reported as pregnant at diagnosis
# 42 (33.1%) were born in Ireland and 50 (39.4%) were born in sub-Saharan Africa
In total in Ireland 38.4% of those infected contracted AIDS via heterosexual sexual contact, 28.2% by Intravenous Drug Use and 21.7% of those infected are men who have sex with men. Tragically 2% of those infected in Ireland are children. These are who discrimination will most definitely raise its ugly head against in future years. We must start tackling stigma and discrimination now!
In the UK the National AIDS Trust’s (NAT) Campaign for 2008 is Respect & Protect. According to NAT, “whatever your HIV status, there is a role you can play in ending HIV prejudice and stopping the spread of HIV”. There are three easy steps:
* Show respect by always treating people living with HIV fairly, respecting their confidentiality and challenging prejudice wherever it occurs.
* Respect themselves and their partners by always practising safe sex to protect their sexual health.
* Find out the facts about HIV, spread the Respect & Protect message and encourage others to do the same.
This year the international campaign’s theme is “Lead – Empower – Deliver” this is run by UNAIDS and the World AIDS Campaign. The reason for designating leadership as the theme is that it provides an opportunity to highlight both political leadership and celebrate leadership that has been witnessed at all levels of society in the campaign against AIDS. According to Dr Peter Piot, the outgoing Executive Director of UNAIDS, this year there is cause to celebrate as “fewer people are being infected with HIV and fewer people are dying from AIDS. Finally.” of course not is all rosy as for “every two people who start taking treatment today, another five become newly infected. So instead of getting shorter, the queues of people requiring antiretroviral therapy are getting longer and longer. There is thus as real and urgent a need as ever for a brilliant and diverse coalition that is ready to lead and deliver on AIDS.” He concludes his statement by saying “The epidemic is far from over, but together we can make a real difference. We’ve started now to save lives but we need to save many more.” and that I agree with!
So make a difference today, wear a red ribbon (either in person or on your blog!), talk about HIV/AIDS, protect yourself and your partner by practicing safe sex and don’t discriminate based on HIV status!