What is World AIDS day?
Each year on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS day. This is to show support for those living with HIV and remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Why is it important?
HIV/AIDs has led to over 38 million people dying globally, making it one of the most destructive pandemics globally. There are 105,000 people in the UK currently living with HIV. AIDS day is an opportunity to raise awareness for prevention of further cases and correct misconceptions about HIV. For example, a recent survey found that 1 in 5 think people think you can acquire HIV through kissing – this is untrue. Only 16% knew if someone is on effective treatment, they can’t pass HIV on and can expect to live a long and healthy life.
What is HIV/ AIDS?
HIV is a virus which infects your blood but can then weaken your immune system. It can be transmitted through unprotected sex and sharing of needles. An HIV infection can lead to AIDS if untreated. AIDS is where your immune system is weak, and you are likely to become very ill from common infections. It was first recognised in the 1950s. Today treatment is effective and those taking medication are able to live a normal, healthy life with HIV. Treatment means the virus is undetectable in body and cannot be transmitted; undetectable = untransmissible.
How can it be prevented?
The key message is to have safer sex and use condoms. If you think you have had unprotected sex with someone who may be HIV positive you can take the medicine PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) which can prevent you from developing HIV if caught early. This is available from your local sexual health service. PrEP (pre exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine now also available from sexual health services for those who are at risk of contracting HIV.
Can it be tested for?
HIV is detectable in a finger-prick blood test which can be ordered online for free. Testing is important and should be done regularly, every year or when changing sexual partners. Testing is available for other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. As HIV infection does not have any symptoms in the early stages it is important to get tested even if you have no symptoms.
You can learn more about World Aids Day on the website.
Visit the Let’s Talk About It website for more information on sexual health including contraception, STI testing and more.