The 1st of December saw the 25th annual World AIDS Day. There are around 10, 000 people currently living with HIV in the UK and 34 million globally. This makes it one of the worst epidemics in history. But how much do we really know about the virus?
Researchers first observed unexplained cases of enlarged lymph nodes amongst homosexual men in 1981. By 1983 AIDS had been reported in 33 countries highlighting how quickly the disease spread in two years.
The following couple of years were vital in the development of the virus; scientists confirmed that a new retrovirus, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), is the cause of AIDS which was soon followed with a HIV antibody test being licensed.
Two years after the antibody test was licensed, AZT is the first approved anti-HIV drug and becomes the most expensive drug in history, costing over £6, 000 for a year’s supply.
In 1988 the first World AIDS Day was designated by The World Health Organisation on the 1st of December but the disease was still spreading rapidly. By 1990, only 9 years after the first case of the virus was recognised, nearly twice as many Americans had died from AIDS than had died in the Vietnam conflict. By 1995 AIDS became the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 25 and 44.
As science and medicine progressed AIDS patients now lived longer as a result of new anti-HIV therapies. By 2006 the world’s first single pill anti-HIV drug, to be taken once a day is approved. By this time, 40 million people are living with HIV around the world.
Interest in AIDS and HIV grew over the years. So much so, by 2011, various bodies plan their own initiatives to find a cure for the virus. In 2012 two methods were being approached in an effort to find a cure: HIV immunity through gene therapy and stripping HIV from human DNA to have it destroyed by the immune system.
View a timeline of the history of World AIDS Day here.
Whilst there has been a number of discoveries and medical advances concerning the virus, there are still 6, 300 people contracting the disease every single day worldwide. Since the beginning of the outbreak in 1981, 75 million people have contracted HIV and AIDS. It is currently affecting around 35 million people worldwide. This shows that we still have a long way to go in fighting the disease.
The virus has become much more manageable in the countries that can afford the drugs. Those affected can live fairly normal lives and the disease can almost go unnoticed. However, using protection when having sexual intercourse and being tested for HIV regularly still needs to be encouraged, whilst the management of the disease is becoming easier, it is still a disease which worldwide 262 people are contracting hourly.
What can you do to help?
World AIDS Day not only recognises and remembers all those who lost their lives to the virus and those who, today, are affected but encourages people to support the cause and fight against HIV.
The red ribbon was created by a group of New York artists who came up with the iconic symbol to bring awareness and support to those living with HIV across the globe.
In the UK a variety of events took place in support of World AIDS Day. Highlights included a marathon by Starfish Greathearts Foundation, a charity which brings hope to the children of South Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS.
Tagagdere, a charity operated by people living with HIV for people living with HIV, held a craft fair and Sahir House ran a number of successful awareness campaigns including projecting a huge ribbon on the side of Liverpool Football Club and delivering messaged about HIV testing during one of their matches.
See how others celebrated World AIDS Day here.