World AIDS Day is dedicated to spreading awareness of the AIDS pandemic spread by the spread of HIV infection, and to mourning those who have died of the disease. An estimated 40 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since 1981, and an estimated 37 million are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite recent improvements in treatment, the AIDS epidemic still claims an estimated two million lives each year, of which more than 250,000 are children. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV prevention, testing and treatment are all disrupted worldwide particularly in countries where healthcare infrastructure is weak.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the “breakdown in essential HIV services due to COVID-19 is threatening lives”. “We must fight on with passion and we must keep human rights at the center of our societies and of our health systems, or we will not end the HIV epidemic,” Executive Director of UNAIDS said in her message on World AIDS Day. To fight a disease, one must be well informed and stay abreast with the latest developments. This will dispel the power over misinformation, myths and rumors associated with the disease, especially that can create discrimination against those who are living with the disease.
It has been about 38 years after HIV/AIDS was recognized, meaning there is now a much greater understanding of the virus, its transmission, its detection, and management. Lack of all this information and associated stigma are fueled by misinformation.
Top five myths about the virus and its transmission:
- One can contract HIV by sharing cutlery and linen.
- Only those who do drugs get HIV/AIDS
- Only those who are sexually active and or in same-sex relationships can get HIV.
- My medication will ensure I do not spread HIV.
- Women with HIV/AIDS should never bear children.
Facts around Women:
- Every week, around 5500 young women aged 15–24 years become infected with HIV.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, five in six new infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are among girls. Young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.
- More than one third (35%) of women around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner at some time in their lives.
- In some regions, women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence are 1.5 times more likely to get HIV than women who have not experienced such violence.
- Women and girls accounted for about 48% of all new HIV infections in 2019. In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls accounted for 59% of all new HIV infections.
Key populations and their sexual partners account for:
- 62% of new HIV infections globally.
- 99% of new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia.
- 97% of new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa.
- 69% of new HIV infections in western and central Africa.
- 28% of new HIV infections in eastern and southern Africa.
How to observe World AIDS Day:
- Wear a red ribbon.
- Donate to an AIDS charity or causes that are helping those affected and infected.
- Know your status by getting tested.
- Stay well informed.