World AIDS Day is held on 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died of the disease. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Viral Disease, HIV has been relegated to the background and when HIV/AIDS comes up as a topic of casual discussion among people, questions that pop up include; do you know your status? When was the last time you checked? Is it necessary to even check? How about the cost? What are your options if you are positive?
To mark this year’s memorable day, a free HIV screening was organized by Reproductive Justice Agenda and UNAIDS in collaboration with the UG SRC for students of the premier University in the country, University of Ghana, Legon. Though it was free and lasted the whole day, students showed less interest in patronizing the service. The question now is; who is responsible for fighting HIV?
With the level of technological advancement reached in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we only need active collaboration and participation from people from all walks of life in order to push the deadly virus back to wherever it came from but it is sad that we often overlook the need to get involved. Although HIV is now a long-term, manageable condition and not a death sentence, it is still a serious issue due to unwillingness of people to get tested. Some say it is better to die in their ignorance since nothing can be done if they find out that they are positive.
Now let’s ask ourselves this most important question; Are there any health benefits to getting tested early if you think you have HIV? Finding out early if you have HIV has two vital benefits. Firstly, you will be able to start treatment as soon as you need it, which makes it more effective in helping you live a long, healthy and active life. Secondly, if you know you have HIV you can take the right steps to prevent passing it on to others by practicing safer sex and avoiding exchange of any used sharp objects with your loved ones. If even you are married and test positive, you can still have your babies; there are options available and steps you can take to ensure HIV is not passed on to your lovely partner during conception (if the partner is HIV negative) or to the unborn child who could possibly be our future president.
For my brothers and sisters who think they are constantly exposed, you don’t need to wait for any required number of months before you take action. Your hope is called PEP or Post Exposure Prophylaxis which is a medical treatment that can prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered the body. If you have put yourself at risk of HIV infection at whatever place or activity you got yourself into, you can go to any clinic, freely tell your physician the truth and they would usually prescribe a course of PEP drugs. You need to start PEP ideally within 24 hours of the risk occurring and no later than 72 hours. The longer you wait the less chance of PEP working.
As we commemorate this special day, let’s remind ourselves of some quick facts about the deadly virus
- Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
- You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
- HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
- Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
- You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
- There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV
It is enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance. Get tested today!!!