World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commiserate people who have died. According to credible sources, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.
The experts in HIV/AIDS posit that there are only three ways to get HIV – unprotected sex claiming as high as 95 per cent whilst sharing needles and mother-to-child take the remaining five per cent.
In Ghana, the Ghana Aids Commission says about 80 per cent of infection is through sex. This clearly dismisses the misconception that kissing and hugging also spread HIV. Ignorance rather does.
Whilst the global theme for the commemoration of the Day is “ Ending the AIDS epidemic as part of the Sustainable Development Goals” that of Ghana is “Fast Track : Meeting the health needs of children towards an HIV-free generation.”
With a national prevalence rate of 1.47, Ghana is said to have made remarkable progress in its HIV response.
However, the government agency leading the national response, the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC), is faced with another hurdle of operationalising the UNAIDS new targets for HIV treatment scale-up beyond 2015 aimed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The new targets which are to reach 90 per cent of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status and also being diagnosed, 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy having 90 cent viral suppression, are a departure from previous AIDS targets.
It has been established that over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the United Kingdom (UK). Globally, there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the fact that the virus was only identified in 1984, more than 35 million people are said to have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment as there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, each year in the UK for instance, around 6,000 people are said to be diagnosed with HIV, yet people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, while stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
This explains why World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Governments that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
To show your support and solidarity towards the millions of people living with HIV, wearing a red ribbon, for example, on World AIDS Day, is one way.
You can also share the facts (statistics and information) about HIV amongst your friends, family and work colleagues, both face-to-face and online.
We can also set up places where the experts in HIV and AIDS will interact with the youth in particular to learn about the disease. Mass media interventions can play a very crucial role in awareness creation as well as resource mobilisation to support the work on HIV.
It is significant to note that, although World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to learn more about HIV, it is important for individuals and institutions such as the Aids Commission in Ghana and the National Aids Trust in the UK, to keep the momentum going all year round.
One could also read their newsletters or visit their websites to keep you up to date with all the new developments in HIV.
A UNAIDS document rightly states that “only a partnership approach will enable the world to end the AIDS epidemic.”
The world will need to combine political will, evidence-based normative guidance, continued generation of critical evidence for action and sufficient financial resources to reach the 90-90-90 target and to sustain lifelong HIV treatment for millions worldwide.”
By Dan Osman Mwin