Thursday, 1 December 2011

World AIDS Day - a cause for hope

Media coverage that I have heared - on the radio - over the last couple of days suggests the following two thoughts for World AIDS Day.

The first thought is that a HIV positive status, or the AIDS illness that can follow from it, is now considered to be a treatable illness. It should no longer be seen as a terminal illness or, as it might be expressed in a popular culture, a "death sentence". In developed nations, the condition that attaches to this is that those who are HIV positive receive an early diagnosis, and so there is a call for people to be willing to be tested for their HIV status. The BBC news report here suggests that something like one in five people in the UK decline a HIV test when it is offered.  In under-developed nations, the condition is that of ready access to appropriate retro-viral drugs. At a cultural level, one would hope that this development will help to remove the unnecessary stigma that can attach to a positive HIV status..

The second thought relates to the existence of HIV/AIDS among the gay population. One report I have heard on the radio in the last couple of days made a particular call for gay men to be willing to be tested. According to a report on the BBC news website, based on data from the Health Protection Agency:
The number of people living with HIV in the UK reached an estimated 91,500 in 2010, up from 86,500 the year before, with a quarter of those unaware of their infection.

Some 6,660 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK last year.

Data revealed infections likely acquired within the UK almost doubled in the last decade from 1,950 in 2001 to 3,640 in 2010 and exceed those acquired abroad.

This rise is mostly due to infections acquired among men who have sex with men, who remain the group most at risk of HIV infection in the UK, says the HPA.

In 2010, over 3,000 gay men were diagnosed with HIV - the highest ever annual number. One in 20 gay men is now infected with HIV nationally and in London the figure is one in 11.
Our political and social culture needs to be realistic in its response to this specific aspect of the HIV/AIDS situation, whilst at the same time not putting at risk the potential gains with regard to reduced stigma attaching to a positive HIV status that comes from better treatment and management of those diagnosed as being HIV positive.

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