Each year, December 1 is observed as World AIDS Day in order to raise awareness and to unite people worldwide in the fight against the global health issue of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is also significant to fight the stigma around it and focus on providing care and support for those who are already living with the disease.

AIDS is caused by the spread of the life-threatening human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which attacks the immune system of the patient and significantly reduces the body’s resistance to other diseases. The disease serves as the final stage of the people who live with HIV but with proper care and medical health, HIV positive people can continue to live a healthy life without it reaching the final stage.

On a global level, there are approximately 38 million people who are living with HIV. It was first discovered in 1984 and since then, this virus has killed more than 35 million people, making it one of the most deadly pandemics in human history.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Dr. Ranjana Becon, Gynecologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad shared, “Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be transmitted through use of contaminated syringe for medical purposes or shared activities such as injecting drugs into the bloodstream, sexual intercourse not protected through a condom or diaphragm, or from an infected mother to child during pregnancy, birth or through breastfeeding.”

He added, “In absence of any cure for HIV/AIDS, prevention is the best way to safeguard oneself against this infectious disease that can threaten life if not treated — always insist on using a disposable syringe if you need regular blood transfusion or need to insert syringes in your body frequently, use protection during sex, and get tested for HIV before planning a family.”

As per Becon, “With the improved access to antiretroviral treatment, people with HIV are living much longer than before and resilience is one of the biggest factors in the lives of these people. They are likely to be more socially isolated due to their relatively frail health and HIV-related stigma, and are strained by the management of chronic HIV and comorbidities.”

History and significance

World AIDS Day was first designated in August 1988 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, to get some semblance of control over the pandemic that had claimed the lives of so many people. Both James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter were public information officers for the AIDS Global Program of the World Health Organisation. They conveyed the idea for the observation of this day to the Director of the AIDS Global Program, Dr. Johnathan Mann, who approved it for December 1.

Since the 1990s, research and medical practices have made significant improvement for the care of people living with HIV. Like with most major public health issues, the HIV pandemic has only been presented with further challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. HIV prevention, testing and treatment have all taken a blow due to the lockdown and the breakdown of essential services during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken priority.

Theme

Each year, World AIDS day is observed with a particular theme in mind. For 2020, the theme is, “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”, which will focus on creating global solidarity among people who live with HIV and also seek to destigmatize the health issue. The theme also focuses on the importance of providing resilient care and support even during the coronavirus pandemic.

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