Rebekah Brancato News Editor
Dec. 1 marked World AIDS Day, an annual day that presents “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and remember those who have died,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). World AIDS Day was started in 1988 and was the first global health day in history. This year, the U.S. government’s theme for World AIDS Day is “saving lives through leadership and partnership,” according to HIV.gov. Eastern celebrated the day with Songs of Hope, a vocal music concert in recognition of World AIDS Day and celebration of hope for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, if left untreated. HIV attacks the CD4 cells, which are a type of T cell in the body’s immune system that regulates immune responses. The decrease in CD4 cells makes the person more likely to get other infections and illnesses, known as opportunistic infections. AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection, where a person has a CD4 count of less than 200/μl. Currently there is no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled using antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to the National Institutes of Health. HIV is transmitted through the blood and some bodily fluids. Common causes include unprotected sex, or sharing needles or syringes.
While the death rate from AIDS has decreased from 1.9 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2016, HIV/AIDS remains a global pandemic. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), approximately 36.9 million people worldwide had HIV/AIDS in 2017, including 1.8 million children. In the United States, those in southern states account for more than half of new HIV diagnoses in 2016, despite making up only 38% of the nation’s population.
In 2003, the United States government launched the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which aims to address the HIV/ AIDS pandemic and claims to have saved more than 16 million lives. In addition, the CDC provides support for more than one third of all people on treatment worldwide including more than half of those on PEPFAR-supported treatment.
“The United States and other countries across the globe have made great progress in controlling HIV; however, much more needs to happen,” the CDC state on their website. “Leadership and partnership in all levels of HIV prevention will continue our success to achieve national HIV prevention goals and PEPFAR’s targets and save lives in the U.S. and across the globe.”