December 3, 2013
Getting closer to zero

Tue Dec 03, 2013

The 2013 theme for World AIDS Day, which was commemorated on Sunday, December 1, is the same as it was last year – “Getting to Zero” – meaning zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths.{{more}}

This special theme, which will be repeated until 2015, focuses on “Zero AIDS Related Deaths” and signifies a push towards greater access to treatment for all.

This year’s Global Report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that significant headway is being made in gaining control over the epidemic.

According to the report, rates of new infection are down by 33 per cent around the world, compared with 2001. In fact, this past year marked one of the lowest annual new infections recorded since the mid-to-late 1990s. There has been a 29 per cent decrease in AIDS-related deaths (both adults and children) since 2005, and a 52 per cent decrease in new HIV infections in children since 2001. Related to the decrease in AIDS-related deaths is the 40 fold increase in access to antiretroviral therapy between 2002 and 2012.

In the Caribbean, the number of new HIV infections fell by more than half from 25,000 in 2001 and 12,000 in 2012. AIDS related deaths also fell by 52 per cent from 24,000 in 2001 to 11,000 in 2012.

Despite these significant gains, significant challenges remain.

According to figures provided to SEARCHLIGHT, there are 649 persons known to be living with HIV in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but only 349 are registered and accessing care from the public health system. We encourage more persons who are HIV positive to take advantage of the support provided by the local various agencies. The services provided will go a long way in helping those living with HIV to live longer, healthier lives.

Last weekend, under a programme put on by several local agencies, 167 persons in various parts of the country were tested. The tests are free and more persons should take advantage of the opportunity to know their status. Globally, it is estimated that only around half of all people living with HIV know their HIV status. It is only when a person knows his or her status that treatment can start.

Among the challenges mentioned by UNAIDS in their 2013 report is an increase in unsafe sexual behaviours in several countries, and inadequate access to high-quality, youth friendly HIV and sexual and reproductive education and health services and sexual violence against young women and girls.

The report also notes that stigma and discrimination, violence against women and girls and unjust laws continue to hamper efforts to achieve global AIDS targets.

If these challenges are overcome, the number of people on treatment keeps rising quickly enough and if the effectiveness of HIV prevention efforts keeps improving, the world can reach the goal of ending (or coming close to ending) the AIDS epidemic.

Get tested; know your status, and if positive, get treatment; if negative, take the necessary actions to maintain that status.