World Aids Day 2018
The year 2018, marks 30 years since the first World AIDS Day took place. Every year on the 1st December the world reflects on the fight against the HIV endemic, supports those living with the disease and commemorate those we have sadly lost. At the time of writing over 36 million people are living with the disease worldwide. The disease was first identified in 1984 and over 35 million people have since died from HIV or AIDS related conditions.
In the UK there are over 101,000 people currently living with the condition, HIV remains a significant issue for LGBT people and as a community we must continue to be at the forefront of the fight against the disease. As of 2016 over half of new HIV diagnosis were reported among men who have sex with men. The UK has made huge steps forward in the fight against the virus with 96% of those infected on effective treatment and 97% of those infected virally suppressing the disease. Medical advancements now mean that the majority of those infected with the disease are able to achieve an undetectable viral load which means they can live a long and healthy life.
It is still a sad fact that every year in the UK hundreds of people are still dying from AIDS related conditions, this mostly due to late diagnosis,despite a decline too many people are still unaware that they are living with the condition. The UK has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV and the efforts of charities and medical bodies have helped see a huge decline in those contracting the condition.
One of the key scientific developments in the fight against the condition is PREP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily pill that if taken consistently can almost eliminate the possibility of contracting the illness. New HIV diagnosis in London have declined nearly 30% since PREP became widely available to the masses. It is important to note that PREP does not protect against other STI's and in rare instances drug resistant forms of HIV can still be contracted. A condom is still the most effective way to stop the spread of STIs.
The United Nations is seeking to eradicate the disease by 2030 with world leaders expected to reaffirm their commitment to ending the world's most destructive pandemic.
The key theme of this years World AIDS Day is 'Know your status' which encourages people to get tested. Among men who sleep with men HIV is still at too higher rate those aged between 22 - 49 and whilst HIV is no longer a death sentence it is still a life long condition.
I was heartened to see Prince Harry recently take a HIV test and pressing the country to make HIV testing completely normal. A HIV test is nothing to be ashamed of and is something that we should all being willing to do regularly. We must also fight the stigma of HIV, despite huge advancements stigma remains a daily fear for those living with the disease. Those who have HIV are our friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family and having an illness does not change that fact.