AS POSTED ON STARTSAT50.COM
Disclaimer: In no way do I think that I am completely ignorant, but I do feel that I need to have a point of view about issues and this is what this blog is about.
Rules – I check Google News Top Stories for the top story of the day, spend exactly one hour reading about it and then I write about it forming my opinion on the topic.
Today’s top story topic was HIV, which kind of surprised me until I started reading some articles and blogs about it and found out that yesterday was in fact World AIDS Day, which has been going on since 1988.
What is World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
As I read several articles on HIV, it brought me back to being in a treatment center back in 1987. I was 22 years old, scared and very confused about life in general. One of the days they tested all of the patients for HIV. Fortunately I had never gotten to the point where I took my drugs intravenously, but many of the people there did. I remember sitting in the Day Room just talking about it and what we would do if we tested positively, when they started calling us to the office for the results. One by one they would call names and that person would take a deep breath, get some reassuring nods from the rest of us, and then make the long walk down the hallway to the nurse’s office.
I sat in that room and waited as they called all the names, except mine and one other girl. We just sat and tried to reassure each other as the others came back in with looks of relief on their face announcing that they were not infected. Finally someone said what I had been thinking, “hope they are not saving you guys until last for a reason, like that maybe you got it.” Everyone laughed, including me, but inside I was going crazy. I knew very little about the disease other than I knew that HIV usually became AIDS and that people were dying from it. A lot of people.
Fortunately, it turned out that no one at the facility was infected and me being called last was just the way that the names came up on the nurse’s list. We all listened to a lecture about making sure that we used condoms and even showed us the proper way to clean needles for drug use, which really bothered me since we were all in there trying to get off of drugs, and they were showing us the safe way of doing drugs. 27 years later it makes a lot more sense to me as statistics show that only 5% of people that go through treatment centers, are actually able to stay clean and sober for the rest of their lives, but that is not what this is about (as troubling as that statistic is).
Here are some statistics that I came across in my hour of reading:
Some 35 million people currently have HIV and AIDS has killed around 40 million people since it began spreading 30 years ago.
The overall number of Americans who know their HIV status increased to 84% approaching the Strategy goal of 90% by 2015. From 2008 to 2012, HIV diagnoses declined among blacks, Latinos and women nationally. The latest surveillance data show that new HIV infections have been declining among black women and injecting drug users. Importantly, AIDS diagnoses (or diagnosing people late in their disease progression) decreased among all racial and transmission groups during this time.
An estimated 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV, 19 million of them do not know they are infected, and more than 2 million become infected each year. HIV medications remain out of reach for far too many globally — more than 20 million are unable to access treatment — and budget cuts threaten the advances that we have made and the possibility of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
That last one is the most concerning to me, not that 35 million people are living with HIV, but that almost 55% of them do not know that they have it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really hear about HIV that much anymore. I watched a video that President Obama made and in it he says that we are closing in on the ultimate goal, which is a generation of people that will not get AIDS, that this is the worst time to stop fighting it. While I agree wholeheartedly with that statement, I have a hard time believing that our government, or anyone’s government, is going to fund the research to put an end to this disease once and for all. It will fall to some budget cut at some point. I also read that if we do not continue on the path that we are on, which is a good one in fighting HIV and AIDS, that the disease could come back and reach proportions that we saw back in the 80’s.
They have made strides in the fight against AIDS to where early detection of HIV can be treated and the disease suppressed so that someone that is infected can lead a healthy normal life.
HIV may be naturally evolving into a milder and less fatal virus, according to recent study at Oxford University, which found that as HIV adapts to the human immune system it not only becomes less deadly but also less infectious.
Knowledge is the key, ignorance is to blame.
Only one quarter of the 1.1 million people with HIV have their condition under control, where “under control” means the virus has been suppressed, according to a report released this summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
AIDS was always a subject that people shied away from, most because it was labeled as a gay man’s disease. Unfortunately the disease does not discriminate. The current target group according to a 2012 UNAIDS report is the 16 to 25 year olds.
Globally, young people are now carrying the burden of HIV. According to a 2012 UNAIDS report, youth between the ages of 16 to 25 account for 40 percent of all new adult HIV infections. Each day, more than 2,400 young people become infected with HIV.
What scares me is how much this age group knows about this virus. Right now Ebola is what is being talked about, and even that seems to be dying down even though it is far from being over in my opinion.
The following paragraph pretty much sums up my opinion on what needs to be done going forward. We cannot just think that it is going to go away, we need to stay aware and share this information with future generations. This disease has killed too many people already, the fight needs to be funded and won, or it will come back and bite us all in the butt…..again!
The best way to get young people involved in their own health is to work with them. The top-down approach to HIV prevention won’t work. We should partner with them to get the message across, have them at the table, and listen rather than preach.
An AIDS-free generation is achievable, but only if we allow young people to develop their own prevention messages and lead their own support groups. Our role, as the generation that lived through the worst ravages of HIV/AIDS, should be to offer our experience and knowledge—to guide but not dictate