With World Aids Day approaching this Thursday, government agencies and medical experts have called for renewed activism and involvement from the public when facing the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the disease it causes; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Recent news stories have highlighted the growing numbers of infections in the United Kingdom, and the sad fact that many people refuse to take AIDS tests for fear of finding out their status. However, with the virus still so prevalent globally and the published numbers suggesting more and more people live with HIV without knowing it – the prospect of not undergoing an AIDS test seems to be a dangerous option.
This year’s World Aids Day marks 30 years since the deficiency, largely transmitted through sexual contact, was first recognized in 1981. Since then it’s estimated to be responsible for the deaths of nearly 25 million people worldwide, with sub-Saharan Africa being the area of highest infection and virus-related deaths. And while this suggests that the virus is largely confined to Third World countries the reality paints a very different image. Legendary singer Freddie Mercury, author of the Laws of Robotics Isaac Asimov and famous French philosopher Michel Foucault all succumb to AIDS related illness; highlighting the fact that the virus has little regard for geography or social status.
And now the BBC has reported on the drastic trend that 1 in 5 people living in the United Kingdom refuse to get themselves tested even when offered an AIDS test. Their quoted statistics also showed that in 2010, only 4% of the population of England had received the screening with the majority having done so due to pregnancy or visiting a GUM clinic. This is particularly relevant when compared with the number of people in the UK who have the disease but are unaware of it – 1 in 4. Overall, the number of people with HIV is set to hit 100,000 this year.
While disconcerting, the opinion and indeed the statement from experts and medical professionals is one of reassurance and support. Getting tested for HIV is a positive step for people to take in protecting their health, and that of those around them. With the improved treatments of anti-retroviral drugs, counselling and support available these days, it means that HIV is not necessarily fatal.
Dr Valerie Delpech, the head of HIV monitoring from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and an epidemiologist, who was quoted in the article from the BBC, suggested part of the hesitation about getting tested is a lack of understanding at how easy it has also become to diagnose the disease. More importantly that the earlier treatments are made available, the more successful they are. She was supported by Deborah Jack, also quoted in the article, from the National AIDS Trust.
“People shouldn’t be scared of HIV testing, but they should be scared of undiagnosed HIV,” Jack said, going on to praise the steps made in the fight against the virus but agreed it made all the difference with an early diagnosis. “The advances in HIV treatment have been one of the biggest success stories in the 30 years since the virus first emerged, but too many people test too late and so fail to benefit from these drugs.”
An HIV test consists of a doctor or medical professional taking a small blood, saliva or urine sample, and a laboratory analysing the material for various signals of the virus. Depending on the test, the results can be shown anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours later. All of these kinds of tests are conducted with the utmost confidentiality and discretion, with consultation and immediate treatment options usually provided should the test prove positive.
The most important thing to remember when deciding on whether or not to take and HIV/AIDS test is the extreme health benefit it can provide to people. By taking an HIV test, you are actively fighting against the spread of this pandemic and forming part of the movement to eradicate the virus from society. Knowing your status will not only protect your health, but of those around you as well; providing you with the necessary knowledge to avoid and fight the virus.
If you would like more information regarding World Aids Day and HIV/AIDS in general, you can visit their website here.
For more information regarding sexually-transmitted diseases (STI’s), you can follow this link here to our partner site which provides comprehensive information and testing options for a range of diseases.