World Aids Day: 1st December

World Aids Day: 1st December

World Aids Day falls on 1st December and has been running every year since 1988. It’s an opportunity for the world to unite in the fight against HIV, while showing support for people living with AIDS or HIV and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. The red ribbon is the universal symbol of support for those living with HIV and is an opportunity for people to wear their ribbon with pride to show solidarity to all those affected with HIV or AIDS. 

Find out why World Aids Day is important, what is HIV and AIDS, how to test for HIV, what is viral load and being undetectable, myths that are usually related to HIV and how you can support World Aids Day this year. 

Why is World Aids Day important? 

In 2019, it was estimated that 106,890 people in the UK were living with HIV with 4,139 new cases being diagnosed within the same year. Similarly, the World Health Organisation states that 38.4 million worldwide were living with HIV by the end of 2021. With statistics as high as these, it’s never been more important to continue spreading awareness, education and reducing the stigma and discrimination that those living with HIV face.

What is HIV and Aids?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) while AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is the name for a collection of viruses caused by the virus. HIV is a virus that damages and weakens the immune system, which is the ‘immunodeficiency’ part of HIV. In the past, those with a HIV diagnosis would have eventually been diagnosed with AIDS, however with new modern antiretroviral treatment, those with a HIV diagnosis rarely develop serious HIV-related illnesses. 

How to test for HIV?

A HIV early detection test is quick and simple. It works by detecting HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies using a drop of fingerstick blood. It can be done in the comfort of your own home and from as early as 21-22 days from exposure to the virus (it can take up to 3 months to produce a positive result) with results ready within 1 minute. Testing for HIV is vital as untreated HIV can continue to weaken the immune system, leading to late-stage HIV or AIDS. 

To order a HIV early detection test, click here 

What is viral load and being undetectable? 

Two terms you may have heard when learning about HIV and AIDS; viral load and being undetectable. Viral load is the amount of HIV that is the blood. A viral load test can detect how much virus is in the body by measuring how many particles of HIV are in a blood sample. 

Research has continued to show that the transmission of HIV is linked to the amount of HIV virus in the blood, and has demonstrated that those with low levels of HIV virus are not able to pass the virus on. 

‘Being undetectable’ is when the amount of virus in the blood has been reduced to undetectable levels. This is usually because of modern advances in HIV medicine, medication known as antiretroviral treatment (ART). If the levels of HIV are undetectable, then the virus cannot be passed on. 

Myths about HIV

A lot of the stigma and discrimination directed towards those affected with HIV come from misconceptions that are spread around about HIV due to not understanding how the virus affects the body. Let’s explore a few of these common myths and why they are untrue.

Myth: HIV can be passed on, even if on medication. 

This is false. If a HIV positive person is on the correct medication (where the virus has been reduced to ‘undetectable’ levels; also known as an undetectable viral load) the virus cannot be passed on from person-to-person as the transmission of HIV is linked to the amount of virus in the blood. In the UK, this is usually classed as a viral load below 20 copies/ml.

Myth: HIV can be passed on through kissing.

This is false. HIV cannot be passed on through kissing. HIV is passed on through blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk, but not saliva. This is because saliva contains a combination of antibodies and enzymes that prevent HIV infecting new cells. 

HIV only affects gay men

This is false. While gay men have a higher risk of being diagnosed with HIV, heterosexual people are still at risk. In the UK in 2019, there were 1,559 new HIV diagnoses in heterosexual men and women. That’s why it’s always important to continue wearing a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex to protect you from catching sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. 

How can I help support World Aids Day? 

One of the biggest ways to support World Aids Day is to ‘rock a red ribbon’ to show your support for those living with HIV and become a HIV ally. You can also host a fundraising event, using the Red Ribbons as well as shouting about World Aids Day on social media.

Not only that, join the fight, raise awareness while protecting yourself against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS with our reputable Red Ribbon Condoms

To find out how you can support World Aids Day, click here
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