December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day every year for the world to unite in the fight against the HIV epidemic, support those living with the disease and remember the hundreds of thousands who have died from it.
“On 1 December WHO is calling on global leaders and citizens to rally for ‘global solidarity’ to maintain essential HIV services during COVID 19 and beyond - and to ensure continued provision of HIV services for children, adolescents and populations most at risk for the disease,” reads a public statement from the World Health Organization.
“Protecting people from HIV during the pandemic, and ensuring they can maintain treatment, is critical. Researchers are currently investigating whether people with HIV have an increased risk of poor outcomes with COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, in South Africa, which has been especially hard-hit by HIV/AIDS, health officials are hoping that new, long-acting drugs to help prevent HIV infection will be a turning point for the fight against a global health threat.
South Africa has the biggest epidemic in the world with 7.7 million people living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.
World AIDS Day was first observed in 1988. Every year since, organizations, scientists, patients and loved ones across the world encourage awareness to move toward ending the epidemic.
About 1.2 million Americans are currently living with HIV, according to HIV.gov, a website managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, and about 14 percent of those people living with it don’t know they have it and need testing.
More than 37,000 new HIV infections were diagnosed in this country in 2018, according to the CDC, with the highest rates of new diagnoses happening in the South and among people aged 25-34.
That year, there were more than 15,800 deaths among Americans who had been diagnosed with HIV.
Men are still much more likely to contract the disease, about five times as many men had new diagnoses in 2018 as compared to women. According to CDC data, about two-thirds of new cases in 2018 resulted from male-to-male sexual contact with an infected person.
About seven percent of new HIV infections in 2018 were the result of people injecting drugs using infected needles or equipment.
The World Health Organization said they hope some of the lessons from the coronavirus pandemic can be applied to the HIV/AIDS epidemic to help “accelerate progress towards our new 2025 targets and … ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”