The first global health day ever recognized, World AIDS Day, is observed on December 1st every year. This day is an opportunity for people all over the globe to support those living with HIV, support the fight and research against HIV, and remember those who have died because of AIDS-related illnesses.
Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, over 70 million people have acquired the infection and an estimated half have died from AIDS related complications. Today, there are over 37 million across the globe that live with the disease. Twenty-two million of the 37 million are currently on treatment.
Today, an HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence. There are many different treatment and prevention options (such as PrEP) and services for those in vulnerable populations. Still, access to care and treatment remains a significant problem, especially in developing nations, and more needs to be done to address this issue and increase access. There is also still a general gap in awareness. This year’s theme is “Know Your Status” because one in four people with HIV are unaware that they have the disease. Unfortunately, this may be due to barriers to getting tested.
The WHO recommends the use of self-tests for HIV in areas where there is a lack in availability of HIV tests. This is where a person can collect their own specimen, typically oral fluid or blood, and perform the test in a private setting such as their home. Currently, 59 countries have started using HIV-self tests. The largest HIV self testing programs have been implemented in six countries in south Africa by the WHO with help from international organizations such as Unitaid.
The UN has a target of diagnosing 90% of all people with HIV by year 2020 and the world has committed to ending AIDS by 2030. Self tests are a huge step in getting vulnerable populations and communities access to testing and knowing their status. Knowing your status and getting on antiviral treatment as soon as possible are the consequential steps to ending AIDS. However, it all begins with awareness and access to testing.
What are some ways YOU can spread awareness and recognition for World AIDS Day and contribute to the goals for 2020 and 2030?
- Rock the RED Ribbon to show everyone you support the movement – this symbol became part of the AIDS awareness movement in 1991 when New York artists created it. Fun Fact: It was the first disease-awareness ribbon made and was later adopted by other health awareness causes, such as breast cancer awareness and mental health awareness.
- Print out #ROCKTHERIBBON posters or share them on social media to spread the message. Find these images here!
- DONATE to organizations that support AIDS research. Be sure to do your own research to make sure the organization’s mission aligns with your motivations.
- Volunteer at a World AIDS Day event near you!
- GET TESTED & KNOW YOUR STATUS!