By Quam Kelani, Key Correspondent for the Irish Forum for Global Health
December 1, 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day. This year’s theme was “Know your status”. UNAIDS highlights the progress towards ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic but also highlights how much more we have to do (1). This involves making people aware of their HIV status in other to have access to either prevention or treatment services.
Despite the improving statistics on HIV, we have vulnerable groups and key populations at increased risk of HIV. This is influenced by their living conditions and lifestyle. Examples of key populations are sex workers, injecting drug users (IDU), people of diverse sexual orientation and disempowered women such as adolescent girls and young women.
Stigma and discrimination prevents people from accessing HIV testing and treatment services. Therefore, we encourage zero discrimination against people living with HIV. The World Health Organization and UNAIDS launched the Agenda for Zero Discrimination in Healthcare in 2016 (3). The aim is to achieve a goal where everyone in the world can access good healthcare treatment without discrimination. WHO/EMRO organizes interventions targeting vulnerable groups and key populations in different countries by providing technical support and capacity building depending on the country’s need (4). We as individuals need to support one another and leave no one behind by raising awareness concerning HIV as well as being a support system by organizing support groups and community outreach.
Different ways have been adapted to increase access to HIV tests. Some of these methods are Self-tests, multidisease tests and community-based tests.
Knowing our HIV status allows us to make choices on our right to health. It increases the chances of receiving treatment from a range of different preventive and sustainable options depending on a person’s HIV status. It gives us the opportunity to screen for other illnesses such as tuberculosis, diabetes and hepatitis. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers living with HIV are able to prevent HIV transmission to their babies by receiving anti-retroviral treatments. An effective HIV treatment prevents HIV transmission from one person to another by reducing the viral load in a person to an undetectable level.
One of the subset goals underneath Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) is to end the epidemic of AIDS by 2030 (5). This means 90% of people should be aware of their HIV status, 90% people are on HIV treatment and 90% people are virally suppressed. That is an estimated 30 million people on treatment and less than 500 new HIV infections per year. According to Father Michael Kelly;
“To achieve this, this means to stop all new HIV infections, everyone of them, ensuring every HIV infected person has access to life preserving antiretroviral drugs and making it a daily routine to take their prescribed medicines. In other words, leave NO ONE behind”.
The first step to achieve this is to know your HIV status.
17th December 2018.