Putting an end to HIV

    By Sammy Witt, UN Youth Rep

    If, in the eighties, someone had said that AIDS would someday be as easy to treat as diabetes, for example, they would have been considered insane. But, now with antiretroviral therapies it is becoming that easy! But only if you have access to the right treatments.

    Efficient treatment, however, doesn’t mean an end to the epidemic quite yet. 1.8 million people get infected with AIDS globally every year.1 And, in 2016, 1 million people died globally from HIV/AIDS related illnesses.2 That number is nothing in comparison to the staggering 39 Million who have died of AIDS since its rise in 1981.3

    At the moment there are 36.7 million people that are aware that they have HIV.In developed countries, this need not be the death sentence it used to be.

    When undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART) you, as an HIV carrier, can limit the internal spread of the disease by 96%. Many people, however, don’t get tested and are not aware of their actual status. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 40% of those infected with HIV don’t actually know.5 Especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV’s no.1 hotspot, it’s difficult to get everyone tested. Also difficult is getting everyone the extensive medication they need.

    This is particularly important because mothers around the globe need the treatment so they don’t pass on the virus to their unborn children. Without treatment, the likelihood of HIV being passed from mother-to-child is between 15-45%. ART and other effective PMTCT (Prevention of mother-to-child transmission) interventions, however, can reduce this risk to below 5%.6

    If you are what the WHO considers ''someone at high risk'' there is another solution for you. This is called PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). It’s a combination of two different HIV treatments which make you immune; a little blue pill you need to take every day. There are many situations where this should be considered. For example, if you’re in a relationship with a partner who carries the disease, not in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative or if you are a gay or bisexual man who has had unprotected sex or been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months. Also, for example, a man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status and who are at substantial risk, therefore, of HIV infection. Additionally, people who inject drugs or women who have bisexual male partners. It is suggested that people in these situations take PrEP.

    This will not protect you as well as a condom could, but in the 21st century we have got to be realistic and make sure that those who refuse to protect themselves properly have an alternative. I would like to additionally point out that gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis have each reached an all-time high in 2015.7

    I want to end this on a more anecdotal note; I’ve always wanted to create change in other people’s lives. But often, particularly at the UN, when I am exposed to the broader scope of the world’s problems; I feel that I lack the influence, power, resources, that we all are sometimes caught in a downwards spiral with no exit strategy. But I have also come to learn that some of my dreams aren’t all that unrealistic. Ending HIV is something that I truly believe in. It is possible! All it takes is one little blue pill a day for all those people that are having high risk sex. My, and potentially your, contribution to this is simple. Spread the word and decrease the stigma. We could eradicate HIV completely within one generation.

    Spread the word about PrEP, educate yourself and others, help end HIV/AIDS.

    1 Fact sheet - latest statistics on the status of the aids epidemic; UN Aids; 2017; http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

    2 HIV/Aids Factsheet; WHO; updated July 2017; http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs360/en/

    3 HIV Factsheet; WHO; http://www.who.int/mediacentre

    4 Global Health Observation (GHO data)>HIV/Aids; WHO; 2016; http://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en/

    5 WHO: Riesige Dunkelziffer bei HIV-Infektionen; Deutsche Welle; 11.29.2016; http://p.dw.com/p/2TSV3

    6 HIV/Aids>Mother-To-Child-Transmission; WHO; (2016?); http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/mtct/about/en/

    7 Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis Are All on the Rise; Scientific American; Ryan F. Mandelbaum; January 1, 2017; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gonorrhea-chlamydia-and-syphilis-are-all-on-the-rise/

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