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Each year, on the 1st December people from across the globe take the opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, to show their support for individuals living with HIV and to commemorate the individuals who have died as a result from developing AIDS.
UNAIDS estimated that in 2017, over 36.9 million people were living with HIV across the globe. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system – the body’s defence against diseases. If an individual is described as ‘living with HIV’, it means that they have been contaminated with the HIV virus and it is in their system. Without being detected and properly medicated, the HIV virus can develop into AIDS.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a collection of symptoms that is caused by the HIV virus. AIDS is diagnosed when an individuals immune system is too weak to fight off infection due to the effects of the HIV virus. AIDS is known as the final stages of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated, leads to death.
There are three stages of HIV infection, and the symptoms vary in severity depending on the individual, they are:
Stage 1: Acute primary infection
The first stage of the HIV infection involves flu-like symptoms, and can often be overlooked. An individual may experience a sore throat, fever, body rash, swollen glands and headaches.
Stage 2: The asymptomatic stage
Once the individual has been through the acute primary infection stage, they can often start to feel better. In fact, HIV may not cause any other symptoms for up to 10 or even 15 years (depending on age, background and general health). However, the virus will still be active, infecting new cells and creating copies of itself. If left untreated, over time, this will cause severe damage to the immune system.
Stage 3: Symptomatic HIV infection
The third and final stage of HIV infection includes symptoms such as weight loss, night sweats, regular infections and chronic diarrhoea. At this stage, the body’s immune system has been severely damaged and cannot fight off infections or bacterial and fungal diseases.
Although there is no cure for HIV, life expectancy for individuals with the virus has improved rapidly over the past 20 years. This is due to modern treatments being able to keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. Individuals receiving HIV treatment can live a healthy and active life but it needs to be detected as soon as possible, as treatment in the later stages is likely to be less effective.
- There is an estimated 10,400 people with HIV living in the UK who don’t know that they are infected.
- For an individual to be diagnosed with HIV today at 35, (the average age of diagnosis in the UK) their life expectancy is over 72.
- With the right medical support, 99% of HIV positive women give birth to healthy babies without passing on HIV.
For 2018, to help raise awareness and show your support for world AIDS day, the National AIDS Trust (NAT) are asking the general public to #rocktheribbon.
The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon is a simple and effective way to show your support and solidarity towards the millions of people living with HIV around the world. Click here to find out more information on how to purchase red ribbons. To learn more on the campaign and to download promotional materials, click here.
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