Health care advocates, families and medical officials around the globe paused on Sunday, Dec. 1 in observance of the 31 annual World AIDS Day — an event first declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1981 in efforts to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Since then, communities have served as a powerful force behind the success of improving health care strategies and treatment while also sparking greater response for and support of those living with the virus.
Now, over three decades later, the message has become simple: get tested and know your status.
Of the 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018, 79 percent received testing, 62 percent received treatment and 53 percent had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with reduced risk of infecting others.
Thousands of community health workers and members of the HIV and key population networks — many of whom are living with HIV or affected by the epidemic — have contributed to this success.
On World AIDS Day 2019, WHO showcased the difference various communities continue to make to put a halt to the HIV epidemic, also calling for the need for strengthening primary health care opportunities.
The WHO recently released new recommendations on HIV testing services with the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa [ICASA2019] now taking place in Rwanda through Dec. 7.
UNAIDS reports 1.7 million people worldwide were newly infected in 2018. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] reports 1.1 million people were living with HIV in the U.S. at the end of 2016 and 1 in 7 nationwide who had the disease didn’t know they were infected.
According to the CDC, “37,832 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. and dependent areas.”
Worldwide, 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2018, according to UNAIDS.
The CDC reports there were 16,350 deaths among people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. The agency added the deaths may be due to any cause.
U.S. scientists found the first clinical evidence for the disease that would become known as AIDS in 1981, according to the United Nations. Chimpanzees in Central Africa have been identified as the source of HIV in humans. Their version of the virus, called SIV, was likely transmitted to humans and then mutated, the CDC says. HIV has existed in the U.S. since the mid- to late-1970s.
And while HIV/AIDS can now be treated, significantly increasing the years of life for those infected, researchers still have not developed a cure. Still, developments continue to be found. In 2016, the NIH announced a vaccine-efficacy trial in South Africa of 5,400 people, the largest in the country’s history. In addition, researchers have built on success in Thailand in 2009 where for the first time ever a vaccine showed modest success in preventing HIV infections.
CDC Advises Yearly Testing
The CDC recommends everyone from ages 13 to 64 get tested at least once. Those at greater risk of infection, such as sexually active gay or bisexual men, people who have had sex with an HIV-positive partner and people who have shared needles and sex workers, among others, should get tested more often.
The CDC recommends testing once a year for people engaging in these higher-risk behaviors. For sexually active gay and bisexual men, the CDC says testing every three to six months is beneficial.
If you are pregnant, and even if you are in a monogamous relationship, the CDC recommends testing to be sure and to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your child or partner. The sooner a pregnant woman starts treatment, the less likely she is to transmit HIV to her child.