By Evelyn Bailey
The history of the HIV and AIDS epidemic began in illness, fear and death as the world faced a new and unknown virus. Scientific advances have enabled people with access to treatment to live long and healthy lives with HIV.
HIV remains one of the most serious global health threats of our time. In 2015, 2.1 million people were infected with HIV, and 1.1 million died of AIDS-related causes. Effective HIV prevention programs require a combination of behavioural, biomedical and structural interventions.
As of May, 2017 an estimated 37,600 HIV infections are diagnosed each year. The Federal approach to reducing new HIV infections is based on the best available scientific evidence and modeling studies have informed decisions about the allocation of resources with regard to the strategies employed, geography, and the populations at greatest risk.
There are now more options than ever before to reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV and the newest methods are even more effective than those that were available earlier. These include personal actions that people can take to protect themselves like abstinence, having only one partner with the same HIV status, and choosing less risky behaviors, as well as risk reduction tools, services, and interventions that are delivered by health care providers, public health departments, community-based organizations and others. Currently available tools that have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission or acquisition include:
- HIV Testing (to detect undiagnosed infection)
- HIV Medications to Prevention Transmission
- Treatment as Prevention
- Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
- Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
- Interventions to Improve Access to Prevention Tools
- Syringe Services Programs
- Laws Allowing Sterile Syringe Purchase
- Condom Distribution Programs
- Drug Treatment (including Medication Assisted Therapy)
- STD diagnosis and treatment
- Medical Male Circumcision
Mass media campaigns, behavioral interventions, medication reminders, and other strategies have been shown to effectively encourage people to adopt and maintain risk reduction strategies including condom use, adherence to HIV treatment, and sterile injection practices. Education, training, and capacity building for health care providers are also important activities that can improve the ability of health care providers and systems and community-based organizations and their staff to provide high quality HIV prevention, care, and treatment services efficiency and effectively.
Shoulders To Stand On is proud that there are many options for reducing the risk of getting HIV. STSO applauds the efforts many have made to reduce the number of new AIDS cases. Focus, concentrated effort and a belief in our own value and worth create a positive environment in which prevention strategies can succeed. Be on the side of success – get tested!