I belong to the so-called ‘AIDS generation’. When I was young, the AIDS epidemic broke out. Horrific images of ‘AIDS victims’ were broadcast on the tv. The words ‘plague’ and ‘terminal cancer’ were used frequently in the media. People were dying rapidly and horribly and without dignity. Sex was seen as dangerous. And HIV was a dishonour and a death sentence. In that context, it’s a wonder we ever had sex at all.
30 years later, and the the latest figures from 2016 are staggering. An estimated 36.7 million people in the world are living with HIV today. 30% of them don’t know their status. 1.8 million of them are children. Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses. In 2016, 1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.
These figures are baffling. Today, 1 December is World AIDS Day – a day we raise awareness, pay tribute to and remember all those people who have perished and who are living with HIV. They might be friends, family or strangers in distance lands. Today, we commemorate them.
In Sweden, the number of people in Sweden with HIV increases every year by 400-500 people. But the picture is brighter than it was 30 years ago. Today, there is treatment – treatment so effective that it can reduce virus levels to practically zero and minimise the risk of transmission.
Despite this, there is still a lot of ignorance and discrimination related to HIV. It might not be fatal in Sweden but it still is a chronic illness. Identified early, effective treatment means that patients can live full and healthy lives.
There is no vaccine or cure for HIV. There is however effective medicine today that stops the progression of the disease and prevents the destruction of the immune system if administered in time, thus also preventing the development of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
Most people in Sweden who get HIV today do not develop AIDS. Of course, this is a different scenario in many other places around the world where treatment and finances are lacking.
Getting HIV does not mean you are a drug addict or promiscuous. It is time to stop the shaming and discrimination. Anybody sexually active can get HIV.
A test is the only way to find out if you have HIV – available in Sweden at health care centres. Legally these can be taken anonymously.
To find out more about HIV in Sweden go to http://www.hividag.se
Www.avert.org provides more information about HIV on a global scale
This evening in Maria Magdalena church on Hornsgatan in Stockholm there is an AIDS memorial organised by HIV Sverige. 18.00.
Remember testing and treatment is the best prevention!
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