Today is World AIDS Day. Despite the attention Charlie Sheen has given the disease recently, many are surprised to learn that the fight is far from over. World AIDS Day reminds the public that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
Still more work to do in AIDS Education
Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. And, even thought the virus was identified as recently as 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, which makes it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Although there have been huge scientific and cultural advances in fighting AIDS and HIV, many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition which decreases the likelihood of their pursing treatment. While good treatment does exist it can’t help people if they aren’t taking it.
Just a quick glance through social media in the wake of Sheen’s announcement shows how much ignorance is still out there. Jenny McCarthy, famous for spreading irresponsible and alarmist information about the imaginary link between vaccines and autism, shared her concerns on her radio show, Dirty, Sexy, Funny, about kissing Sheen during her appearance on the show Two and a Half Men.
Although McCarthy acknowledged that HIV is not transmissible through kissing (except in the very rare instance in which blood is exchanged in the mouth). She did say the kiss caused her feelings of unease anyway, or as she framed it, “I go, like, Ick, ugh, that’s not fair and scary.” The audio is here.
Obviously there is more work to be done. And not just in the U.S.
Asia-Pacific Region Facing a ‘Hidden Epidemic’ of HIV Among Adolescents
Although you hear a lot about AIDS in Africa, they aren’t the only continent struggling with the disease. There were an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections among adolescents aged 15-19 in 2014 in the Asia Pacific region, accounting for 15 per cent of new infections. There are now around 220,000 adolescents living with HIV in the region, with large cities like Bangkok, Hanoi and Jakarta hubs of new infections.
Although new HIV infections are falling overall, they are rising among adolescents from key populations, in particular young gay men and other men who have sex with men. The rise in new infections coincides with an increase in risky behaviour, such as multiple sexual partners and inconsistent condom use.
These findings come in a new report, ‘Adolescents: Under the Radar in the Asia-Pacific AIDS Response’, published by the Asia-Pacific Inter-Agency Task Team on Young Key Populations, which includes UNICEF, UNAIDS and others*.
Other findings in the report include:
•The HIV burden among adolescents falls heaviest on ten countries in the region, which together account for 98 per cent of adolescents aged 10 to 19 living with HIV in Asia-Pacific. These are: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
•Among countries where data are available, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines have the highest proportion of adolescents living with HIV, accounting for almost 10 per cent of total people living with HIV in each country.
•In the Philippines, new HIV infections among 15-19 year olds have risen by 50 per cent over four years, from an estimated 800 in 2010 to 1,210 in 2014.
•In South Asia, AIDS-related deaths among 10-19 year olds have almost quadrupled from around 1,500 in 2001 to 5,300 in 2014. In East Asia and the Pacific, deaths have increased from 1,000 to 1,300 over the same period.