Reflecting on 2014’s World AIDS Day, Martina Seppi looks at the ever-present issue of AIDS today and why we should consider it all year round, rather than just on one day of the year.
“World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died”. This is the first sentence that appears on “World AIDS Day” website, an association which deals with raising awareness of the AIDS disease (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and advertising the main events that could possibly help people hit by this virus. As well as for Ebola, AIDS is a terrible disease caused by a virus, the HIV, alias human immunodeficiency virus, which was first faced in 1959. But it should be considered all year round, not just on World AIDs Day.
On the 1st December the whole world will again think deeply about AIDS, on the impacts, both social and sanitary, that this disease carries with it as well as remember those who the virus has killed. At this moment in time there’s no conclusive cure for this virus, because the safety of the patient relies on time. In fact, AIDS has the following development: the patient starts to have headaches, fever, throat inflammation, sore of the mouth or genitals, but all of these symptoms are not easily connected to HIV virus, due to their common spread across the population. If the disease is diagnosed early, treatments can be used in order to contain the disease and eventually defeat it. But if this doesn’t happen, the patient faces a period of clinical latency of the disease that lasts on average up to eight years during which the patient is not apparently affected by any symptoms. At this stage the infection is still treatable. However, if the disease is not recognised and properly contained, symptoms will gradually worsen as the disease destroys the immune system. This exposes patients to other illnesses, most commonly lung problems and, in extreme cases, even to cancer.
According to AIDS researchers, around 100,000 people are currently facing HIV virus in the UK and 34 million around the world. A staggering 35 million people have died from the virus since the first recorded case in 1981. According to these statistics, AIDS is one of the most dangerous pandemics in our history. We should all remember those suffering from this terrible disease, even if it doesn’t affect us. I actually reckon that help is greater if comes from people who are not directly involved in the infection, because it’s a way to say that there’s no difference between someone who is ill and someone who isn’t and that we can all stand together to find a solution to this problem.
The first step to containing the spread of HIV and AIDS, especially in poor countries, is knowledge of how the virus works and how it spreads. The virus can be spread by contact with the blood of an AIDs sufferer; this is most common in sexual contact. Thus, many charity associations stress the importance of safe sex and undergoing blood analysis if you are at risk. Doctors from Emergency, Medecins Sans Frontieres and other philanthropic charities are sent to Africa, where the disease originated, and where treatments are rarely available. Lots of volunteers also join these projects every year to raise awareness of the disease, and to teach people how to tackle, and protect themselves and their families from it.
I guess every campaign against AIDS can be expressed by these words of the famous actress Elizabeth Taylor “It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance”. In fact, many governments have joined the appeals of doctors and researchers against inappropriate sexual behaviours. In some states there are school projects to prevent students from contracting AIDS by simply teaching them how to behave if someone they know is suspected of contracting the virus.
54 years on, HIV and AIDS is a problem we still have to face. Issues such as unawareness or lack of resources available to continue with experiments and treatments need to be tackled for progress to be made. This is why AIDS is still such an important issue. We must never forget about this current problem and should always look back at what has been done so far to tackle the disease and what should be improved or introduced.
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