Years after AIDS was first discovered, there is still no cure, and sadly, there still many people who do not know how to protect themselves and others from HIV. Some people still discriminate against people living with HIV instead of offering support. World AIDS Day is held on December 1st each year with a purpose of raising awareness about AIDS and informing the public about prevention measures one can take to avoid spreading or contracting HIV.
World Aids Day is a day set aside to remind the public that HIV is still amongst us and there is a great need to raise money, improve education, and increase awareness. It is estimated that approximately 34 million people globally have HIV and to date; approximately 35 million people have died from this virus.
How is it spread?
HIV can only spread from a person infected with the virus in certain body fluids:
- Breast milk
- Pre-seminal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Rectal fluids
NOTE: HIV can be transmitted only if these fluids come into contact with damaged tissue, mucous membrane (found inside the vagina, opening of a penis, mouth, and inside the rectum) or are directly injected into the bloodstream from a needle or a syringe.
Most common way HIV is spread is through unprotected sex or by sharing needles/ syringes with someone who has HIV.
How You Can Support:
There are many ways one can get involved with this event. Some simple ways to do so are:
Wear a red ribbon:
You can either make your own or buy one and wear it on World Aids Day. In our digitally advanced days, you can also opt to add an image of a red ribbon image to your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). You can also change your profile pictures to a red ribbon for a while or even all year round.
Attend an Event:
Why not look around your neighbourhood and find out if there is any Aids Day event being planned? You can volunteer to help out with the event or simply attend that event to show support. You can raise awareness about that event by posting on your social media pages and inviting your friends and family to join you on December 1st.
Many of us do not have a full comprehension of what HIV is, how to prevent it, what to do to show support if you know someone suffering from it. Why not take this day to educate yourself about HIV? There are tons of information online –there are also countless discussion forums online where one can join and ask as many questions as they need. When you educate yourself, you will be in a better position to look after your health and educate others about HIV. To learn more about HIV, CDC has highly informative sheets that are available to the public. HIV transmission and Prevention are a good place to start.
There is a lot of misinformation out there. Once you have a clear understanding about this virus, you will be in a better position to educate others – so why not take December 1st as an opportunity to speak up at work, school, etc. and find out what people believe about HIV and educate them when they are misinformed?
The Red Ribbon:
The red ribbon is the universal symbol used by people all over the world to show support and awareness for those living with HIV. This symbol has become highly inspiration and people are no longer afraid to don it on to show support for fellow humans. The history behind this symbol is one that many do not know about. Years back, anyone who was suffering from HIV virus was deemed as sick, dirty, and someone to stay away from. Many HIV victims suffered in silence behind closed doors and were too scared to tell anyone about their condition.
The people who came up with the idea of creating a symbol wanted to create something that captured the pain and suffering AIDs victims had suffered. Therefore, they decided on red colour as it symbolizes passion, love, and strength. The shape was settled on because it is one that is easy to replicate and anyone who wants to show support but is unable to purchase a red ribbon can simply cut up a piece of red cloth and loop it around and finally pin it on for all to see. To learn more about the history and meaning of the Red Ribbon, click here
Are there HIV medicines?
Yes, there are. These medicines can be used for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and for HIV infected mothers to be. HIV can spread from a HIV-infected pregnant woman to her child – this type of spread is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV. If you have HIV and you are pregnant, you need to talk to your doctor ASAP and have him/ her start you on HIV medicines. HIV medicines reduce the risk of passing HIV to your unborn baby. After birth, your little one will continue to receive HIV-medicine for 6 weeks after birth. This helps reduce the risk of infection from any HIV that might have seeped into the baby’s body during childbirth.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) can be used to reduce risk of infection after possible exposure. For example, if you are HIV negative and you sleep with a HIV positive partner without protection, you must start using PEP within 3 days after intercourse and continue doing for 28 days without pause. A healthcare worker should also start taking PEP if exposed to HIV in the workforce.
Misconception about HIV Transmission:
You cannot get HIV from casual contact with an infected person. For example, you cannot get this virus from a simple handshake, hug, or even a closed-mouth kiss. You also cannot get HIV if you use items that were used by an infected person such as dishes, doorknobs, or toilet seats.
How You Can Reduce Risk of Getting HIV:
HIV does not discriminate – anyone can get it. However, there are a few things one can do to reduce risk of catching HIV such as:
- Always practice safe sex. Always use a condom regardless and ensure that you use it correctly
- Reduce your number of sexual partners
- Get tested often and always persuade your partner to go get tested with you
- Have less risky sex. The riskiest type of sex for HIV transmission is anal sex. The less risky is oral sex.
- Get tested and treated for STD’s and insist your partner get tested as well. STD’s can increase your risk of becoming infected with HIV.
- If your partner has HIV, talk to your doctor about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who do not have AIDS but are at high risks of becoming infected. NOTE: even when you use PrEP, always use a condom when having sex with your partner.
- Do not inject drugs into your body. However, if you do, use only sterile drug injection equipment and water. NOTE: Never share your equipment with others.
To learn more about World Aids Day and how you can help spread awareness, log on to https://www.worldaidsday.org/events for more information.