December 02, 2015

World AIDS Day

Yesterday, December 1 2015, was World AIDS Day.

An important day.

HIV, the virus that when untreated can lead to AIDS, might not be a deadly decease the way it used to be any more, at least not where we have access to medicines and access to health care , but it low income countries and in countries where people are already struggling with other issues, HIV is a very real problem. In big parts of Africa, in Russia and eastern Europe, and in parts of Asia the virus is still spreading and spreading fast.

Even if AIDS related deaths according to numbers from UN have fallen with 48% since 2014, and even if the number of new HIV infections have gone done with 35% since 2000 that is a worldwide number - in some countries the number of HIV infections are either still climbing or are continuing to be high.

World AIDS Day works as an important reminder -  people are still dying across the globe, from AIDS related illnesses - it is not the virus itself that kills, nor AIDS, which HIV might develop into, if untreated, it is other illnesses that kill, illnesses that the body can't fight due to the immune defence being knocked out.

The video I link to here is from a new report from Kenya, from World AIDS Day. It serves as an important reminder that we still have a long way to go.

However there is hope, not the least because the number ARE really going down, globally. New infections among kids have fallen with 58% since 2000 (numbers from UN). Very few children born to HIV positive women are infected, IF the mother is aware that she is infected and is receiving treatment - HIV cannot be cured but it can be treated so those infected can live a normal life and so mothers don't transfer the virus to their children at birth.

Sadly HIV treatment medicines are not available to everyone though, and in some places whole villages and towns are threatened - what happens with the children when the parents have died, what happens to the old people when there are no younger people to care for them when they can't take care of themselves. 

What do you do to feed yourself when the breadwinners of the families are no longer able to work or when they are gone? 

Below, President Barack Obama on what America is doing to fight HIV and AIDS, a presentation from World AIDS day 2015. 

What the Obama administration is doing is fantastic, because every person who is receiving treatment is less costly for the system as he/she will be able to live a healthy life, and work and pay taxes, and each person who is receiving treatment is also unlikely to transfer the virus to someone else, should worst come to worst. Regardless what you think of Obama when it comes to everything else, when it comes to HIV treatment and HIV awareness the last few years, Obama's administration has really made a difference. 

Making sure HIV treatment is easily available is a win win. 

Everyone benefits from having a system where HIV can be talked about and where the HIV positive receives treatment. Good  treatment. 

Quite a number of years ago, when HIV was still quite stigmatised - and in part of our society it still is - I remember picking up the newspaper in the morning of December 1, World AIDS day, only to be met by a familiar face - a school friend of mine. I don't think I will ever forget the shock, the sadness and the disbelief I felt reading about this really friendly guy that I hadn't seen since we went to school together, before I moved away, before he was infected. It saddened me, because I thought then and there exactly what he had apparently thought when he first found out - he was not going to live very long.

Turned out that he was wrong, and so was I - my old school friend is living a perfectly normal life today, just with special medicines. 

Never would I have thought HIV would happen to someone I knew. It was just not on the charts - at least not where I lived then. Yes, that he - my school friend - belonged to a group considered higher risk, that I knew, I think we all had figured  that out even if we didn't talk about other people's private life- but still. This kind, sweet guy. It was the last person I had expected to get ill. 

And it was a shock. It shouldn't have been - I knew he worked with HIV prevention and information,  but I was naive, and I never understood that his engagement wasn't just because he was - IS - a very caring and sweet person, but it was also personal.

I will always admire my school friend who is one of the lucky ones with friends and family who supports him, and who, very early on, decided to be open with his situation. It is my understanding that he has through that helped a lot of people and I also believe a lot of us who used to know him have had a chance to learn more about HIV. To some of us it was probably things we might not have learnt otherwise - it is one thing to read about HIV and AIDS, and HIV prevention, but it is a different thing to hear the stories and know the people behind what you read.

It is a very different thing when you know someone with first hand experience, someone you can ask, and someone who can explain things that are strange to you, or things you don't quite understand, and I really believe that like so many other things, knowledge is one very important cue to finding a solution for HIV.

And the search for a solution, for a cure, must go on.

We are not done yet. Humankind is not done yet.  We have a lot of things to fix - and HIV is one of them. 

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