Why HIV..and why me?

“But haven’t we cured HIV? It’s not really a relevant issue anymore surely?”…

But we haven’t and it is.

Each day 700 babies are born HIV+ simply because of who their mother is and the country they are born into.

And in the UK an estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV. Of these, 17% are undiagnosed and do not know about their HIV+ status.

Furthermore, AIDS is the leading cause of death amongst young women worldwide.

And whilst previously there was a problem with stigmatisation, I find the main issue facing us in the western world today is apathy.

“Clearly the data tells a story that we all need to consider and take seriously. Not only do we have an issue in containing and ending the epidemic medically, but we also have an issue of awareness, as there simply are not enough young people and other key populations getting the message about safety and protection, let alone stigma reduction. Today, HIV has a relevance problem. Young people think that the disease is no longer a real threat and moreover, that they are not at risk”- Nancy Mahon MAC Aids Fund.

But there are charities working to change that. We are Chasing Zero; chasing zero AIDS related deaths worldwide. Our generation has the potential to completely eradicate HIV and AIDS and see a generation born HIV free. Chasing Zero are supporting this in two ways;

  1. Firstly, by supporting the Mother Buddy projects set up across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The scheme aims to see children born HIV free to HIV+ mothers with the provision of ARV drugs. These drugs reduce the risk of transmission from 40% to below 1%, as well as additional health education and support throughout their pregnancies. The programme trains up local women, who are living with HIV but who have given birth to HIV free children, to become Mother Buddies, enacting the programme in their local communities. Therefore, limiting westernised intervention, and providing information from local women already known and trusted in their local areas.
  2. Secondly by raising awareness and promoting education in Universities across the UK. With other 130,000 living with HIV in the UK and 17% undiagnosed it’s an issue that needs to be brought to attention to UK campuses where many student groups are high risk but low on education or knowledge of how and where to get tested.

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Until I became a student Ambassador for Chasing Zero I had no interaction or knowledge about HIV. I had misinformed views on who those high-risk groups are, and a wildly inaccurate idea of the current number of people infected worldwide. I too fitted in the category of people who thought we had cured it and considered it a threat of the past, no longer relevant.

“My generation really needs to be engaged with the fight against HIV/AIDS – it matters so much. Our culture is very much built on ‘trend’ and this is always changing, so even when it comes to injustices there always seems to be a trendy one to fight. We base a lot of our thinking on what we hear through the media, so we get the attitude that “if we haven’t heard about x in a while then x doesn’t really matter or exist anymore.” I’m a lover of social justice and I don’t want to deny the importance of other causes… but the common perceptions that “fighting AIDS was only a trend in the 90s” and that “HIV/AIDS isn’t a problem anymore” are completely wrong. AIDS is still the leading cause of death among young women worldwide, and an estimated 36 million people are living with HIV today”.– Chuma Gondwe Chasing Zero Student ambassador

 And as individual who classes herself a feminist, and volunteers for Charities that support children’s right to education and equality my question is why wouldn’t I care? This is an issue affecting 36 million of the world’s population, resulting in 700 babies born every day with their chance of surviving past the age of 5 reduced to just 50%. Though this issue does preside mainly in sub-Saharan Africa it’s not restricted to this, and is still a public health issue in the western world. And though less people are dying from HIV each year due to advancements in treatment 2 million are newly infected each year resulting in a growth of 0.8 million.

It’s relevance for me doesn’t lie in a personal tie to the illness, rather a desire to see inequality in birth overcome, and one way of achieving this is to see a generation born HIV free. Not just free of illness but free to grow up healthier, and with a greater chance of reaching their full potential.

To get more information visit our website  http://wearechasingzero.org or for those in the Birmingham area to order a HIV testing kit visit; https://umbrellahealth.co.uk

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This week is National HIV testing week, and this blog is written to help bring awareness to the on-going issues surround HIV and AIDS.

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