By Kat McGregor
Every year on the 1st December, World AIDS Day is held to raise awareness about HIV. It is a day to show support for people living with HIV, remember those who have lost their lives because of HIV, and learn the facts and realities of HIV today, in the UK and worldwide.
In 2020, the global focus has been on Covid-19 and how a pandemic can impact health, lives, and livelihoods. COVID-19 is showing once again how health is interlinked with other critical issues, such as reducing inequality, human rights, gender equality, social protection, and economic growth. With this in mind, this year, the theme of World AIDS Day is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility”.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can develop when the virus has damaged the immune systems to such an extent that it can no longer fight off infections. Nearly 40million people are living with HIV around the world, and more than 100,000 of those people live in the UK.
Though there is no cure for HIV yet, the treatment is so suppressive that when treated people are classed as U=U. This stands for undetectable = untransmittable, a state reached when the serum levels of the virus are so low that it cannot be detected and can no longer be sexually transmitted.
Despite 96% of people living with HIV in the UK being U=U, and living long and healthy lives, stigma persists due to a lack of awareness on the reality of the virus.
People living with HIV are often concerned about other’s responses to hearing about their HIV status. In 2018, more than %12 of people living with HIV said they had not shared their HIV status with anyone other than healthcare professionals.
Stigma is also rife in the NHS. One in 10 people living with HIV in the UK have been refused healthcare or delayed treatment because of their HIV status, and a third of people living with HIV have said they are worried about being treated differently to other patients.
Video from WorldAIDSDay.org – listen to 3 people living with HIV in the UK tell their story.
A global problem needs global solidarity.
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima explained in a recent press release that before the coronavirus pandemic there was still a long way to go in ending the AIDS epidemic. The emergence of Covid-19 has delayed millions of people around the world receiving life-saving treatments due to transfers of funding and shutting borders. UNAIDS are calling on all governments to invest fully into international health, and, as with all diseases transmitted person-to-person, to ensure all responses are grounded with human rights.