Saturday, 1 December 2012

Today Is World Aids Day

"History will judge us on how we respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa....whether we stood around with watering cans and watched while a whole continent burst into flames....or not."

World AIDS Day on 1 December brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. The day is an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in high prevalence countries and around the world.
World AIDS Days will have the theme of:
 "Getting to zero:  Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths".
The World AIDS Campaign focus on "Zero AIDS related deaths" signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now. It is a call to honour promises like the Abuja declaration and for African governments to at least hit targets for domestic spending on health and HIV.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens people's surveillance and defense systems against infections and some types of cancer. As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient. Immune function is typically measured by CD4 cell count. Immunodeficiency results in increased susceptibility to a wide range of infections and diseases that people with healthy immune systems can fight off. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can take from 2 to 15 years to develop depending on the individual. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections, or other severe clinical manifestations.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months, many are unaware of their status until later stages. The first few weeks after initial infection, individuals may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.
As the infection progressively weakens the person's immune system, the individual can develop other signs and symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma, among others.
HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected individuals, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions. Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water.
Risk factors
Behaviours and conditions that put individuals at greater risk of contracting HIV include: 
·         having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
·         having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and bacterial vaginosis;
·         sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs;
·         receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions, medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and
·         experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers.
An HIV test reveals infection status by detecting the presence or absence of antibodies to HIV in the blood. Antibodies are produced by an individual’s immune system to fight off foreign pathogens. Most people have a "window period" of usually 3 to 6 weeks during which antibodies to HIV are still being produced and are not yet detectable. This early period of infection represents the time of greatest infectivity, but transmission can occur during all stages of the infection. If someone has had a recent possible HIV exposure, retesting should be done after 6 weeks to confirm test results, which enables sufficient time to pass for antibody production in infected individuals.
Testing and counselling
HIV testing should be voluntary and the right to decline testing should be recognized. Mandatory or coerced testing by a health-care provider, authority or from a partner or family member is not acceptable as it undermines good public health practice and infringes on human rights.
All testing and counselling services must include the five C’s recommended by WHO: informed Consent, Confidentiality, Counselling, Correct test results and linkage to Care, treatment and other services.
Individuals can reduce the risk of HIV infection by limiting exposure to risk factors. Key approaches for HIV prevention, which are often used in combination, include:
1. Male and female condom use
Correct and consistent use of male and female condoms during vaginal or anal penetration can protect against the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Evidence shows that male latex condoms have an 85% or greater protective effect against the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
2. Testing and counselling for HIV and STIs
Testing for HIV and other STIs is strongly advised for all people exposed to any of the risk factors so that they can learn of their own infection status and access necessary prevention and treatment services without delay. WHO also recommends offering testing for partners or couples.
3. Voluntary medical male circumcision
Medical male circumcision, when safely provided by well-trained health professionals, reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. This is a key intervention in generalized epidemic settings with high HIV prevalence and low male circumcision rates.
4. ART as prevention
A recent trial has confirmed if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%. For couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative, WHO recommends offering ART for the HIV-positive partner regardless of her/his CD4 count.
5. Harm reduction for injecting drug users
People who inject drugs can take precautions against becoming infected with HIV by using sterile injecting equipment, including needles and syringes, for each injection. A comprehensive package of interventions for HIV prevention and treatment includes:
·         needle and syringe programmes;
·         opioid substitution therapy for people dependent on opioids and other evidence based drug dependence treatment;
·         HIV testing and counselling;
·         HIV treatment and care;
·         access to condoms; and
·         management of STIs, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis.
6. Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (eMTCT)
The transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called vertical or mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). In the absence of any interventions HIV transmission rates are between 15-45%. MTCT can be nearly fully prevented if both the mother and the child are provided with antiretroviral drugs throughout the stages when infection could occur.
HIV can be suppressed by combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) consisting of three or more antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. ART does not cure HIV infection but controls viral replication within a person's body and allows an individual's immune system to strengthen and regain the capacity to fight off infections. With ART, people living with HIV can live healthy and productive lives.
More than 8 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries were receiving ART at the end of 2011. Of this, about 562 000 were children. This is a 20-fold increase in the number of people receiving ART in developing countries between 2003 and 2011, and a 20% increase in just one year (from 6.6 million in 2010 to more than 8 million in 2011).
By the end of 2011, 54% of the people eligible for treatment were receiving ART. Coverage is highest in Latin America (70%) and the Caribbean (67%), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (56%), Asia (44%), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (23%) and lowest in the Middle-East and North Africa (13%).

World Health Organisation response
Since the beginning of the epidemic, WHO has been leading the global health sector response to HIV. As a cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), WHO leads on the priority areas of HIV treatment and care, and HIV/tuberculosis co-infection, and jointly coordinates with UNICEF the work on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
In 2011, WHO Member States adopted a new Global health sector strategy on HIV/AIDS for 2011-2015. The strategy outlines four strategic directions to guide actions by WHO and countries for five years:
·         Optimize HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care outcomes.
·         Leverage broader health outcomes through HIV responses.
·         Build strong and sustainable health systems.
·         Address inequalities and advance human rights.
WHO's core activities on HIV also include:
·         synthesizing the evidence on the effectiveness, feasibility and safety of HIV interventions and approaches, and guiding the HIV research agenda;
·         articulating policy options for national HIV programmes;
·         improving the availability and quality of HIV-related medicines and diagnostics tools;
·         setting norms and standards for scaling up HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support services;
·         providing technical support to countries to build national capacity to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate effective HIV responses;
·         monitoring and reporting on progress in the health-sector response towards achieving universal access to HIV services, including coverage and impact of HIV services; and
·         leading global efforts and facilitating cohesion and collaboration among partners to achieve the HIV-related Millennium Development Goals and the targets set out in the Global health sector strategy on HIV/AIDS, 2011-2015.

"I believe that this could very well be looked back on as the sin of our generation...I believe that our children and their children, 40 or 50 years from now, are going to ask me, what did you do while 40 million children became orphans in Africa? "
Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, US

Information shared with the complimants of: WHO: World Aids Day


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    1. Very scary statistics. I live in South Africa so I understand the importance of public awareness. Thanks so much for the link to your web site - interesting x