Today is World AIDS Day and here at HANX we are supporting BioSure, the fantastic HIV Self-testing by giving a free HANX condom with every purchase via their online store.
HIV and AIDS
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Unlike other viruses, HIV targets the immune system and once infected, there is currently no way to cure it. If not treated, it can cause AIDS, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, a condition that can affect all of the body’s organs. The disease makes people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases, with the susceptibility increasing as the syndrome progresses. HIV is found throughout the body and is transmitted via body fluids of an infected person (semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and breast milk).
According to UNAIDS, there were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2016, with an estimated 1.8 million individuals newly infected with HIV in 2016 (about 5,000 new infections per day). We are part of the worldwide mission to decrease and ultimately eliminate this.
Back in the 80’s and 90’s HIV and AIDS were a death sentence. Thanks to he advent of powerful drugs in the mid-90s brought remarkable gains in survival for those who had access to these medications. Such treatment means living with HIV is not only manageable but your quality of life and life expectancy is much more likely to not be affected whatsoever. AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 48% since the peak in 2005.
Not only do we want to continue to decrease the new diagnoses of HIV and AIDS, we need to make sure that living with HIV is accepted in the same way as living with any long-term condition is, and which it absolutely should be. This year, we are teaming up with HIV Self Test to offer a free HANX condom for every self-test kit ordered.
Today, there is no cure for HIV, but treatments have evolved tremendously and are very effective and well tolerated. Such treatments include anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and can improve quality of life considerably, in as little as one pill a day.
ART removes actively replicating HIV in the body, suppressing the virus but meaning it can remain hidden in the body. Hence, a patient must take the drugs continuously in order for it to be effective on-going. As of June 2017, 20.9 million people living with HIV were accessing ART, up from 7.7 million in 2010, a fantastic achievement but still a way to go. On the whole, patients take a combination of medications including HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) or cART (combination antiretroviral therapy).
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is medication often used when people at high risk for contracting HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop the virus from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It reduces the chance of catching the virus dramatically if taken consistently.
Whilst these are groundbreaking medications, you cannot always rely on others to protect yourself; the best you thing can do to protect yourself against HIV (as with any other STI) is to use a condom. There are unfortunately still socioeconomic and cultural problems around HIV/AIDS and the treatment, including the need to improve education before more people can achieve viral suppression.
A recent public Health England report has found that since the HIV/AIDS epidemic was first detected over 30 years ago, there has been a 21% decline of cases of the virus from 3,570 in 2015 to 2,810 in 2016. Yet, there are still areas of progress to be made. The number and proportion of diagnoses made at a late stage of HIV infection remain high, particularly among heterosexual men and women, meaning a poorer prognosis for these individuals.
HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men, one of the groups most affected, are declining rapidly, emphasising what can be achieved with access to condoms, testing, PrEP and diagnosing and treating people as early as possible so they can become uninfectious.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control researched HIV diagnosis rates in 31 countries between 2004 and 2015. The study found that by 2015, around one in six new cases of HIV were in over 50 year olds, compared to one in 10 a decade ago, with the mode of transmission was predominantly through heterosexual sex. The researchers found that 16 countries, including the UK, have seen a rise in HIV cases in over-50s.
We need to remove any stigma left that surrounds HIV, and remove the element of fear around being tested for HIV. Being diagnosed and treated early means you can live a long and healthy life. Being diagnosed late runs the risk of contracting severe and sometimes life-threatening infections too late.
Knowing your status means you can get the correct treatment, manage your condition effectively and being diagnoses early has a much better outcome. Take the test and take control.
Don’t let out-dated attitudes stop you protecting your future health.