World AIDS Day – 1 December 2018

Live life positively — Know your HIV status

“HIV testing is an essential entry point to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support services”
– Michel Sidibe – Executive Director UNAIDS

World AIDS Day is celebrated around the world on 1st December each year since 1988. It has become one of the most recognised international health days and provides an opportunity for us all to raise awareness and campaign to increased access to treatment and prevention services wherever we live.

Since 2004 UNAIDS has lead the World AIDS Campaign’s Global Steering Committee, selecting a theme for World AIDS Day in consultation with civil society, organisations and government agencies involved in the AIDS response. Themes run for one or two years and this year the focus is Live life positively — Know your HIV status.

Significant progress has been made in the AIDS response since 1988, meaning three in four people living with HIV know their status but we still have considerable progress to make in many countries; if we are to reach people living with HIV who do not know their status and ensuring that they are linked to quality care and prevention services.

In 2017 UNAIDS estimated:

  • 36.9 million [31.1 million–43.9 million] people globally were living with HIV
  • 21.7 million [19.1 million–22.6 million] people were accessing treatment
  • 1.8 million [1.4 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV
  • 940 000 [670 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses

HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives. It is also crucial to achieving the 90–90–90 targets that 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people living with HIV will have access to antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people on antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression by 2020, thus empowering people to make choices about HIV prevention so they can protect themselves and their loved ones.

Unfortunately, many barriers to HIV testing remain. Stigma and discrimination still deters people from taking an HIV test. Access to confidential HIV testing is still an issue of concern. Many people still only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic. Around the world, 37 million people are living with HIV, the highest number ever, yet a quarter do not know that they have the virus.

Knowing your HIV status has many advantages. It is an essential entry point to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support services. People who test positive for HIV should be linked immediately to antiretroviral therapy to keep them alive and well and, when viral load suppression is reached, prevent transmission of the virus.

Knowing your HIV status also enables people to make informed decisions about HIV prevention options, including services to prevent children from becoming infected with HIV, male and female condoms, harm reduction services for people who inject drugs, voluntary medical male circumcision and pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis.

For more information visit the UNAIDS website and to read the report Knowledge is powerKnow your status, know your viral load published on 22nd November 2018.

Rita Beaumont
APD Food Security and Healthcare