What is World AIDs Day?

WORLD AIDS DAY is held on December 1st each year. The day is used to raise awareness about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. It allows people to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those that have been lost.

HIV still exists in Australia. 833 new diagnoses were reported in 2018. There is no vaccine or cure for HIV however there are highly effective treatments available. Currently, HIV is considered a chronic yet manageable condition. People with the virus can lead long, healthy lives. Life expectancy is on par with a person who is not infected.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.  HIV causes damage to the body’s immune system making it more difficult to fight infections and some cancers.  The virus can be transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids.  It can be spread by unclean needles, mother to baby through pregnancy, labour or nursing and unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex.  Symptoms include fever, sore throat, rash and fatigue.  HIV is usually asymptomatic until it progresses to AIDS.

What is AIDs?

AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS is a late stage of the HIV infection. If a person with HIV has a severely damaged immune system, they will be diagnosed with AIDS. Symptoms include weight loss, fever, sweats, fatigue and recurrent infections. People with HIV who are on effective treatment do not develop AIDS as the treatment stops damage to the immune system.

High Risk

In Australia, high-risk people can include:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who have sex with people from countries with a high rate of HIV
  • People who inject drugs
  • People who have tattoos or piercings overseas using unsterile equipment
  • People who have sex with a person who is high risk

Prevention can include:

  • The use of condoms in vaginal and anal sex
  • Not sharing needles or syringes
  • Ensure tattooing and piercing equipment is sterile

Travel

Worldwide, approximately 38 million people are living with HIV. Up to a quarter of those are unaware they have the virus. If you are travelling and are sexually active in countries with a high rate of HIV, ensure you take condoms with you. These items aren’t always accessible or of high quality in other countries. You can find further information about a country’s HIV rate on the WHO (World Health Organisation) website.

How is HIV diagnosed?

You can have HIV yet feel and look healthy. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV you should consult your doctor or a sexual health clinic about being tested. The only way to find out if you are infected is by having a blood test. The virus can be managed by daily medication.

HIV doesn’t discriminate, it can affect anyone. People with HIV often feel isolated due to a fear of discrimination and not being accepted. This Sunday (1/12/19) is an opportunity to show support for people with HIV. It also gives you the chance to engage family and friends in conversation about HIV.

You can help change any stigma or discrimination around HIV by better understanding the virus and encouraging those close to you to do the same.