By Dr Paul John
The first world AIDS Day was held 28 years ago, after health ministers from around the world met in London. They agreed that such a day was important to highlight the enormity of the AIDS pandemic and the responsibility of nations to ensure universal treatment, care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.
The idea was conceived in 1987 by two public information officers, James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter. They were workers with the World Health Organisation (WHO) global programme on AIDS. But the final approval was given by Dr Jonathan Mann, former head of the Global programme on AIDS, now known as UNAIDS. It is observed annually on the first day of December. It is recognized by UNO and all its affiliate international organisations and member countries. The theme for this year is ‘Hands Up For HIV Prevention’.
In 1981, medical practitioners in USA, working with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered a strange illness among a small number of gay men. The illness was given several names until it was finally called HIV AIDS. It is one of the leading causes of death globally. HIV progressively infects cells of the immune system (especially CD4 cells of the white blood cells), breaking down the body’s ability to fend off some infections and other diseases. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of the more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.
HIV can be transmitted through: transfusion of contaminated blood and blood products; unprotected vaginal or anal sexual intercourse; oral s*x with an infected person; transmission between an infected mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding ; sharing of contaminated sharp instruments and the use of contaminated and unsterilized hospital equipment such as needles and syringes.
According to WHO fact sheet, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 35 million lives so far. In 2015, 1.1 (940 000–1.3 million) million people died from HIV-related causes globally.
There were approximately 36.7 (34.0–39.8) million people living with HIV at the end of 2015 with 2.1 (1.8–2.4) million people becoming newly infected with HIV in 2015 globally.
Sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly the most affected region, with 25.6 (23.1–28.5) million people living with HIV in 2015. Also sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.
HIV infection is often diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which detect the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. Most often these tests provide same-day test results; essential for same day diagnosis and early treatment and care.
There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission so that people with HIV, and those at substantial risk, can enjoy healthy, long and productive lives.
It is estimated that currently only 60% of people with HIV know their status. The remaining 40% or over 14 million people need to access HIV testing services. By mid-2016, 18.2 (16.1–19.0) million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally.
Between 2000 and 2015, new HIV infections fell by 35%, AIDS-related deaths fell by 28% with some 8 million lives saved. This achievement was the result of great efforts by national HIV programmes supported by civil society and a range of development partners.
Expanding ART to all people living with HIV and expanding prevention choices can help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.
UNAIDS reports that in Western and Central Africa, about 6.7 million people are living with HIV, 60% of whom are women. In South Africa, the National Institute of Health, reports that about 1000 are infected daily with HIV. Also 5400 sexually active people have volunteered for the HIV vaccine trial in South Africa. Globally, 18 million people living with the Virus cannot access Anti-Retroviral medications and 40 %( about 14 million) of those living with the virus are not aware that they have it.
In Nigeria, UNAIDS reports that about 60,000 babies are born with HIV annually .The figure has remained unchanged since 2009 and Nigeria remains the highest contributor of children acquiring HIV. The USA Consul-General says that about 600,000 Nigerians are on Anti-Retroviral medications.
As of 2013, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide, and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatments in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children.
Dr John writes from Port Harcourt, via email@example.com,