Hiv and aids
37,9 million people worldwide are living with HIV, 25,6 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. If HIV is not treated people will develop AIDS and will not survive the disease. In 2018, 770.000 people died of AIDS, two thirds of them in Africa. This makes AIDS the fourth major cause of death in low income countries.
HIV a development challenge
HIV and AIDS represent a major health and development problem. The HIV epidemic undermines the development of people, regions and nations. It mainly affects the active population and consequently has an impact on a country’s socio-economic development. Fields remain fallow. Hospitals cannot find nursing staff. Schools lose teachers. Children are being raised by grandparents.
HIV prevention and treatment
1,7 million people became infected with HIV in 2018. At the peak of the HIV epidemic in 1996, there were still 3.4 million new infections. In addition to condoms, we have more prevention tools and strategies available today than we had 20 years ago, such as Prep, voluntary and medical male circumcision, or treatment as prevention.
However, with nearly 5,000 new infections each day the number remains high. UNAIDS therefore speaks of a 'prevention crisis', given the pace at which new infections are prevented, which is far too slow. New and more effective means of prevention remain a necessity in order to scale back the epidemic on a permanent basis, which is why the international community is conducting research into other means of prevention such as a preventive HIV vaccine.
In sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four new infections concern girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are twice as likely to live with HIV as men.
HIV has become a chronic disease since the introduction of HIV medication, at least for those with access to medication. The number of people with access to HIV medication is rising, with 24,5 million receiving treatment in 2019. In low and middle income countries, however, only half of people with HIV requiring medication have access to life saving treatment. Cheaper HIV medication, healthcare system improvements and tackling stigma and discrimination are needed to guarantee access to HIV medication.
HIV and human rights
As long as people with HIV are stigmatised and discriminated against, people will be reluctant to be tested and ask for support. The inequality between men and women also results in women being exposed to HIV more frequently. HIV can consequently not be conquered without taking into account human rights. The promotion of sexual and reproductive rights and the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, migrants and men engaging in sex with men, are therefore a fundamental aspect of the approach to HIV and Aids.
Additionally, HIV infections are still associated with specific behaviour (homosexuality, drug use, prostitution and promiscuity) that is not socially accepted. Sex and sexuality are also controversial and emotive topics. Stigma and discrimination against people with HIV can also be the result of ignorance about how the virus is transmitted or how infectious it is.
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