“HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed 36.3 million lives so far”- WHO
WHAT IS HIV
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages the immune system. HIV, when left untreated, affects and kills CD4 cells, which are a type of immune cells. As HIV kills more CD4 cells over time, it advances into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome where the body is weakened to the point where it can no longer fight diseases and infections hence predisposing the body to various types of illnesses including pneumonia, tuberculosis and cancer. HIV is transmitted through contact with contaminated blood, unprotected sex, and mother-to-child transmission. HIV cannot be contracted through air or water, or through casual contact. Sadly, children can also contract HIV through mother-to-child transmission.
CAN HIV BE TREATED
HIV is a lifelong condition because it inserts itself into the DNA of cells. Currently, no drug eliminates HIV from the body. However, with treatment known as antiretroviral therapy, it is possible to live with HIV for many years and life expectancy can be nearly the same as someone who has not contracted HIV. Studies have shown that when HIV-infected persons take their treatment properly, their viral loads become suppressed. This makes it almost impossible for them to transmit the virus to others.
WHAT IF I AM EXPOSED TO THE VIRUS?
Post Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV is a short-term treatment with antiretroviral medicine to reduce one’s chance of becoming infected with HIV after a potentially high-risk situation. The medication helps prevent HIV from replicating and spreading in the body as long as it is first taken within 72 hours after exposure.
HIV: A MAJOR PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE
HIV has always been a major public health issue. The world has made significant progress in recent years. The joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS – UNAIDS – and other foreign partners launched the 95-95-95 strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The aim of this strategy was to diagnose 95 per cent of all HIV positive persons, provide Antiretroviral Therapy (ARTs) for 95 per cent of those diagnosed, and achieve viral load suppression for 95 per cent of those treated. An intermediate goal of 90-90-90 was set for 2020. However, from reports received in 2020 these important targets have not been met due to disparity, unequal access to ARTs in vulnerable communities, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Now, COVID-19 is aggravating the inequities and disruptions to services, making the lives of the many people living with HIV more challenging.
HIV IN NIGERIA
WORLD AIDS DAY 2021
The first of December of every year is World AIDS Day and the theme of World AIDS Day 2021 is “End inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics ”. With a special focus on reaching people left behind. This is a call for us to confront the inequalities that drive AIDS and to reach people within our network who are currently not receiving essential HIV services. Together, we can make the world a better place.