December 1 is World AIDS Day. As a gay man, you’d think I’d have been touched by AIDS at some point, but I’ve been very fortunate in that I don’t know anyone with AIDS. I volunteered for the AIDS WALK in Nanaimo a few years ago and assisted in the organization of it. Very small participation. I should have done more, and I should do more.
HIV is one of the biggest social, economic and health challenges in the world. It is a global emergency claiming over 8,000 lives every day. In fact 5 people die of AIDS every minute.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus known to cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). If someone is HIV-positive, it means they have been infected with the virus.
A person infected with HIV does not have AIDS until the virus seriously damages their immune system, making them vulnerable to a range of infections, some of which can lead to death.
HIV is transmitted through body fluids in particular blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk, in fact there are only four ways you can become HIV positive.
- unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner (the most common);
- sharing needles or other contaminated injection or skin-piercing equipment;
- blood and blood products through, for example, infected transfusions and organ or tissue transplants;
- transmission from infected mother to child in the womb or at birth and breastfeeding.
HIV is not transmitted by casual physical contact, coughing, sneezing and kissing, by sharing toilet and washing facilities, by using eating utensils or consuming food and beverages handled by someone who has HIV; it is not spread by mosquitoes or other insect bites.
In 2005, over 3 million people acquired HIV, which means there are now over 40 million people living with HIV and AIDS. Despite best efforts from governments, non-profit organisations and healthcare practitioners around the world, HIV and AIDS is still having huge global impact.