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This month’s Social Justice Challenge theme is AIDS

WHAT IS AIDS ?

AIDS stands for: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

AIDS is a medical condition. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections.

Since AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, an unprecedented number of people have been affected by the global AIDS epidemic. Today, there are an estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV and AIDS and each year around two million people die from AIDS related illnesses.

IS THERE A CURE FOR AIDS?

Worryingly, many people think there is a ‘cure’ for AIDS – which makes them feel safer, and perhaps take risks that they otherwise wouldn’t. However, there is still no cure for AIDS. The only way to stay safe is to be aware of how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent HIV infection.

CARING FOR A PERSON WITH AIDS:

In the later stages of AIDS, a person will need palliative care and emotional support. In many parts of the world, friends, family and AIDS organisations provide home based care. This is particularly the case in countries with high HIV prevalence and overstretched healthcare systems.

End of life care becomes necessary when a person has reached the very final stages of AIDS. At this stage, preparing for death and open discussion about whether a person is going to die often helps in addressing concerns and ensuring final wishes are followed.

THE GLOBAL AIDS EPIDEMIC:

Around 2.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2008. Sub-Saharan Africa has been hardest hit by the epidemic; in 2008 over two-thirds of AIDS deaths were in this region.

Parc de l'espoir - AIDS Memorial Park in Montreal, CanadaParc de l’espoir – AIDS Memorial Park in Montreal, Canada

The epidemic has had a devastating impact on societies, economies and infrastructures. In countries most severely affected, life expectancy has been reduced by as much as 20 years. Young adults in their productive years are the most at-risk population, so many countries have faced a slow-down in economic growth and an increase in household poverty. In Asia, HIV and AIDS causes a greater loss of productivity than any other disease. An adult’s most productive years are also their most reproductive and so many of the age group who have died from AIDS have left children behind. In sub-Saharan Africa the AIDS epidemic has orphaned nearly 12 million children.

In recent years, the response to the epidemic has been intensified; in the past ten years in low- and middle-income countries there has been a 6-fold increase in spending for HIV and AIDS. The number of people on antiretroviral treatment has increased, the annual number of AIDS deaths has declined, and the global percentage of people infected with HIV has stabilised.

However, recent achievements should not lead to complacent attitudes. In all parts of the world, people living with HIV still face AIDS related stigma and discrimination, and many people still cannot access sufficient HIV treatment and care. In America and some countries of Western and Central and Eastern Europe, infection rates are rising, indicating that HIV prevention is just as important now as it ever has been. Prevention efforts that have proved to be effective need to be scaled-up and treatment targets reached. Commitments from national governments right down to the community level need to be intensified and subsequently met, so that one day the world might see an end to the global AIDS epidemic.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HIV/AIDS:

  • The AVERT AIDS Game is a great way to see how much you know about HIV and AIDS.
  • You can test your knowledge of HIV and AIDS by trying one of our online quizzes.
  • Our photo gallery has hundreds of HIV and AIDS related photos from around the world.
  • The AVERT video gallery has a number of short videos related to HIV and AIDS.
  • Finally, you can read stories that have been sent to us from people who are either living with HIV or who have been affected by HIV and AIDS.
  • This month I chose to read 28: stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen. I haven’t chose any activity to do yet.

    Once I read 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, I was able to understand the origin and transmission of the AIDS virus and the crisis it is causing in Africa. The author, Stephanie Nolen, through her first hand knowledge of these 28 real life stories, will able to make you feel as if  we are right there beside her listening and feeling the raw emotions of the storyteller.

    The introductory maps seize your attention. “Adult prevalence of HIV /AIDS” on one page and the people represented in the “stories” on the opposite. There’s a swath of dark shading across southwest Africa – that’s “Over 20%”. To the east, the shade is lighter – “15 – 20%”, with two darker smudges labelled “Swaziland” and “Lesotho” – islands of tragedy. At the top, “5 – 15%” predominates, lower numbers hiding the intensity of conditions. Stephanie Nolen’s subjects’ names run across the other map – the individuals whose stories are related here.

    Nolen successfully uses 28 human experiences of HIV/AIDS, gathered over years of reporting on the issue, to tackle each aspect of the pandemic: orphans, access to treatment, medical research, AIDS in conflict zones and within the military, at-risk groups such as truck drivers and sex workers, African political and international humanitarian approaches to HIV, experiences of children, women, elites, couples, families, activists, and the poorest of the poor.

    It’s a very eye opening and uplifting read.

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