Since it is World Aids Day (1st December) I thought HIV would be a great topic to write about…
Currently, the situation facing societies is the increase in HIV cases, predicted to rise from 90,000 to 100,000 for 2012 in the UK, of which 26% do not know their status. It is the amalgamation of the existing ignorance, discrimination, stigmas, and limited campaigning which contributes to this augmentation.
Fact is a majority of citizens are unaware of how the virus is transmitted and how to protect themselves. Some people also believe in ridiculous stigmas such as “only gay men can contract the disease; you can catch HIV through sneezing and coughing; you can catch HIV from kissing; you cannot have children if you are HIV positive… etc.” This further leads to issues in discrimination (in communities and in employment), as well as harassment and abuse.
Being a HIV Peer Educator for the British Red Cross, I have heard shocking perspectives from teenagers supporting the segregation and even the death of HIV infected people. This is all due to the factor of being misinformed.
This all boils down to a few factors of Government and independent bodies obligations, as well as responsibilities of HIV positive and HIV negative people:
(a) An increase in the circulation of information (campaigning) about the disease is an imperative because this would provide knowledge in how HIV can be contracted, the difference between HIV and AIDs, the reduction of risk (even after contraction with Post Exposure Prophylaxis [not 100% effective]), the knowledge that HIV positive people can have children who are negative (via drugs, C-sections, and NOT breast feeding), as well as the fact that people living with HIV can live a normal life (with the help of Antiretrovirals, counselling, and continuous check medical check ups on CD4 levels)…this would also contribute in removing stigmas..
(b) An increase in clinics and funding for charities (i.e. Terrance Higgins, NATs, British Red Cross) in order to provide resources for the public to be tested. This although difficult in times of economic turmoil and government spending cuts, is a necessary requirement because if people do not know their statuses then they will have no knowledge of the risk they may be putting themselves and others.
(c) Introducing curricular classes/ modules in schools looking (for 16+), focusing on STDs and STIs to raise awareness and to diminish stigmas and ignorance.
(d) To raise awareness of the responsibilities of HIV positive people (telling sexual partners, using protection); and responsibilities of HIV negative people (including safe sex, awareness and continuous check-ups)
The Metro Newspaper on November 28, 2011 (“Igonorance to blame for HIV rise” by Emma Phippen) covered the current facts and the situation in the UK; where by 7 out of 1000 in Brighton and Hove, and about 5 in every 1000 are HIV positive; 54% of the 6,658 cases (in 2010) were probably exposed through heterosexual contact; and the groups most affected are gay and bisexual men, and black African heterosexuals. In addition the article focused on Lily, a 21 year old student who tested positive in March 2010, and believed she was handed a death sentence. However she proves that you can lead a normal life even if one is HIV positive; after counselling, she began to accept her diagnosis and began to believe she had a future. She is now studying at university, has a very supportive boyfriend, and is planning to have a baby after studying.
This article was extremely note-worthy and it must be said that articles as such are needed continuously in all media formats for they provide facts and promote awareness.
However what is rarely conversed are the issues of non-developed societies such as areas in Africa and South America where HIV is prevalent. In most of these areas, healthcare is scarce, and smaller communities have no knowledge at all of their HIV status, they have no access to medication or protection, and only ‘traditional’ (unacceptable) options in treatment. Communities as such rely on NGOs and International Charities (i.e. Red Cross and MSF) for aid; and their work must be commended and praised.
In short and in conclusion AWARENESS is key in combating the disease; the Department of Health needs to work with organisations for HIV prevention programmes; and increases in overseas aid is necessary.