As the globe prepares to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2023, the emphasis is on fostering collaboration and empowering community leadership in the fight against AIDS. This deadly disease, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is the advanced stage of HIV infection and represents a severe compromise to the immune system. The transmission channels include unprotected sexual contact, contaminated needles, blood transfusions, and mother-to-child transmission during childbirth or breastfeeding.
AIDS: An End in Sight?
According to Dr. Kalpana Erande, a renowned sexologist, AIDS is marked by a CD4 count of less than 200 cells/mm3 or the presence of certain opportunistic infections. Although there is no ultimate cure for AIDS, Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can significantly slow the disease's progression and help prevent secondary infections. Dr. Erande also underscored the potential of holistic treatments like Ayurvedic medicine to bolster immunity.
Without treatment, the life expectancy of an individual with AIDS is approximately three years. HIV remains a significant global public health issue, claiming over 40.4 million lives to date. Globally, an estimated 39.0 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2022, with the Southeast Asia Region bearing 10% of the global burden of HIV. Encouragingly, epidemiological trends show that new infections declined by 42% from 2010 to 2021 in this region.
The Role of Communities in the Fight Against AIDS
Communities living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV are at the forefront of progress in the HIV response. They connect people with person-centered public health services, build trust, innovate, and hold providers accountable. The theme for World AIDS Day 2023 is ‘Fostering collaboration, empowering community leadership’, highlighting the importance of community involvement in eradicating AIDS.
This report underscores the urgency of raising awareness about AIDS and its treatment options to end the HIV epidemic—a goal that is within our grasp, according to UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.