Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. HIV/AIDS is one of the highest profile diseases of our times, but many of us are still ignorant about key aspects of the illness, how it works and how to live with it.
HIV has killed an estimated 39 million people to date, but making it more dangerous are the misunderstandings and stigmas that surround it.
Different governments and organizations have declared different months as AIDS Awareness Month. The most popular choices are October and December. December is chosen to coincide with World AIDS Day.
The first World AIDS Day was held on 1 December 1988, conceived by the Global Programme on AIDS initiative to highlight the disease and its effects on the world. It was also held to remove the stigma from the disease and halt false rumours about how AIDS was contracted. The day is also used to call for more action from governments, the medical science community, and the private sector to develop and distribute affordable treatments.
The themes for each World AIDS Day aim to highlight not only the disease but also its global social implications, by twinning the commemoration with human and children rights activism, gender violence prevention and urging accountability by governments and business to play their part in combating the disease.
The day is an opportunity for the voices of those affected by the disease around the world to be heard.
According to the World Health Organization, Unicef and UNAids, in 2015:
- Around the world, 36.9 million people are HIV-positive, including 2.6 million children.
- In 2014-15, 2 million new infections were reported.
- In total, 34 million people have died of AIDS-related illness and an estimated 1.2 million died in 2014-15.
- Adolescent deaths have tripled over the last 15 years, with AIDS being the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa and second in the world.
- Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest population of HIV-infected people, estimated to be between 21.6- and 27.4 million people; almost 3 million are children younger than 15.
- In 2001, only 1 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy; in 2015, 15 million are receiving treatment.
- While only an estimated 51% people with HIV know their status, the global response to the disease has helped to avert 30 million new infections and 8 million deaths since 2000.
- Cuba is the first country to declare the complete elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Yucatan in first place in new cases of HIV
Yucatán ranks first nationally in new cases of infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) with 3,407 cases statewide. Furthermore, it is fourth in new cases of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) with 3,867, according to the Epidemiological Surveillance System for HIV / AIDS of the Ministry of Health through November 15, 2015. So far this year, 121 cases of HIV in men and 22 in women have been confirmed in the state.
However, this scenario does not indicate a significant increase in the number of cases, but instead shows that new infections are being detected in a more timely manner with respect to other states in Mexico.
This means that most HIV seropositive cases do not develop AIDS, said Norma Pavia Ruz, a researcher at the Laboratory of Hematology Regional Research Center (CIR) “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi “of the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY).
“What needs to be emphasized is that while cases are being detected early, the most vulnerable individuals are still young people, the elderly and newborns. One of the objectives of global health for 2015 was zero infected babies at birth, but this goal has not been achieved yet. Up to September 30th, 47 cases of perinatal transmission, also known as vertical transmission, have been detected in the state of Yucatan this year,” she said.
“Without timely treatment, between 25 and 30 percent of children are born infected, but this rate could be reduced to one or two per cent with early detection in pregnant women.”
Pavia Ruz mentioned that the stigma towards HIV patients in Yucatan continues, even though the disease was detected for the first time in Mexico more than 30 years ago.
“Today social inequalities make women more vulnerable to HIV / AIDS, either by biological, epidemiological, social or cultural factors, placing our state as third in HIV cases in female patients. ”
The researcher declared that the CIR study found that most seropositive housewives have been infected with HIV by their husbands, who were engaging in bisexual practices that they ignored.
According to statistics consulted, the disease is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, since this type of transmission is the cause of 95 percent of the cases. Of these, at least 45 percent is associated with men who have sex with other men.
In Yucatan, the municipalities with the highest concentration of HIV / AIDS are: Merida, Progreso, Tizimín, Kanasín and Valladolid.
Finally, Pedro González Martínez, a researcher at UADY’s Regional Research Center (CIR) “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi”, stated that sexual transmission is the means by which this disease is mainly transmitted, and that it is crucial to continue promoting prevention through condom use and combat the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV infection.
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