World AIDS Day

This past Sunday (December 1) was World AIDS Day, a day when the international community recognizes the millions of lives that have been taken by AIDS and the additional millions that are living with the disease. As all lab people know, the lab is a crucial part of the diagnosis and care and treatment of HIV/AIDS. From the initial diagnostic tests to the CD4 monitoring tests, the lab plays a crucial role in individual treatment.  Thus, I’d like to take a moment to recognize World AIDS Day on this blog and highlight important statistics about HIV/AIDS.

In the United States, perception of AIDS has progressed greatly from the initial fear of the unknown, to the AIDS quilt and Red Ribbon awareness raising campaigns, to the understanding and knowledge that many people have today.

There is so much that has been done and there have been huge advances in medicine making it possible for people to enjoy a high quality of life while living with the disease. And yet, as the facts and figures below illustrate, there is still so much more to learn and do.

Following are some Facts and figures obtained from the WHO website:

35.3 million people were living with HIV in 2012. An estimated 2.3 million people were newly infected in 2012. An estimated 1.6 million people died of HIV/AIDS in 2012.

2.1 million adolescents (age 10-24) were living with HIV in 2012. A large portion of those are young people in sub-Saharan Africa where girls are more susceptible than boys.

9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving ART (anti-retroviral therapy) at the end of 2012. Over 16 million others living with HIV do not have access to ART.

In 2011 56% of pregnant women received the most effective drug regimens to prevent MTCT (mother-to-child transmission). MTCT is almost entirely avoidable with access to the right care.

People living with HIV have the strongest risk for developing active TB. Over 79% of TB cases worldwide are people living in sub-Saharan Africa.  In 2011 it was estimated that a quarter of all HIV related deaths were due to TB.

For an additional summary of facts and figures you can check out the UNAIDS 2013 Global Fact Sheet.

As a quick, related aside, in my information gathering for this post I came across information on the Red Ribbon campaign that I hadn’t known before and thought I’d share. Most of us know the ubiquitous red ribbon which is a universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV. The red ribbon was the first ever ribbon symbol, now commonly used for awareness of many other causes in a rainbow of colors. The idea came from a gathering of artists in 1991 who were trying to come up with a visual to support a NY arts organization that raised awareness for AIDS. Clearly, they were successful in coming up with a powerful visual that is easily replicated and understood around the world. Cheers to those artists!

-Marie Levy

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