What is it?
HIV is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. HIV damages the immune system, which eventually becomes so weak that diseases and infections begin to attack the body. As these conditions worsen, a person is diagnosed with AIDS.
HIV/AIDS can be treated, but not cured. Here are some statistics from the UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2011:
- An estimated 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2010 – up 17% over 2001.
- In 2010, 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV.
- The proportion of women living with HIV has remained stable at 50% globally, although women are more affected in sub-Saharan Africa (59% of all people living with HIV) and the Caribbean (53%).
Why should I care?
People infected with HIV/AIDS live in nearly every country in the world. The virus continues to spread. Epidemics have erupted in China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, several Central Asian countries and the Baltic States.
HIV/AIDS is not just a health problem, but also a development problem. How? By spreading fast mostly to young people and working-age adults, HIV/AIDS affects the economy, society, family and schooling in a country, weakening the country as a whole.
When 8% or more of a population becomes infected with HIV, the growth of the economy slows down, according to a World Bank study. This is because the labor force gets reduced and demands on the already overwhelmed government, and economic and health care systems increase.
Poor countries are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because:
- They often don't have the resources to treat and help patients with HIV/AIDS.
- Their health care systems are most likely already overburdened (or they aren't well developed).
- HIV/AIDS medication is often very expensive, not available everywhere in the world, and hard for poor countries to afford.
- Basic care and treatment for an HIV/AIDS patient can cost as much as 2-3 times per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in the poorest countries.
- Resources for educating the public about risky behavior (which often leads to HIV infections) are equally limited.
- People and societies in general are often reluctant to talk about risky behavior because it touches on societal taboos and often goes against norms.
A growing number of children are orphaned by AIDS. These orphans are less likely to attend school, or receive good nourishment or proper healthcare.
What is the international community doing?
The World Bank and other international organizations recognize that the spread of HIV is a major global development problem.
- Create national health policies to treat and respond to HIV/AIDS.
- Expand care and treatment for those affected, and their families.
- Improve AIDS education, teacher training, and social programs.
- Protect children whose parents have died of AIDS.
- Fund international research for an AIDS vaccine through organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
Since 1989, Bank financing for HIV/AIDS has totaled nearly $4.6 billion, through grants, loans, and credits to programs to fight HIV/AIDS. As of April 2010, the Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program (MAP) for Africa has provided US$2 billion to 35 countries, including five regional projects.
What can I do?
Talking about HIV/AIDS can be very difficult, but it can also be a matter of life and death. You and others in your community should feel comfortable talking about HIV/AIDS. Keeping quiet makes it even more difficult to prevent HIV from spreading. Many young people don't believe HIV is a threat to them, and many others don't know how to protect themselves from HIV.
We can all help reduce the spread of the disease and its impact on everyday life, and remove the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.
1. First, Protect Yourself! This is your only life. Learn more about youth and HIV/AIDS on the Youth Net Project website. Ask a health advisor your own questions about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by visiting Go Ask Alice.
2. Teach Others To Protect Themselves. Many people still don't know how HIV is transmitted or that it is preventable. Teach others in your community, and seek out volunteer opportunities. Learn about and donate to organizations in your own country that work with AIDS orphans by visiting FXB International. Talk to other young AIDS activists about HIV/AIDS issues on Taking it Global.
3. Respect Those Who Are Infected. People infected by the HIV virus would never ask for it. Please learn to respect those with HIV/AIDS. Visit the very informative and internationally active Advocates for Youth website for more information about what you, your family, teachers and peers can do to respect and protect others from the many stigmas attached to HIV and AIDS.
4. Get Involved. The world can beat HIV/AIDS, but we need concerned citizens like you to get involved. World AIDS Day is the international day of action on HIV and AIDS that takes place every year on December 1. To find out how you can participate, visit the World AIDS Day website.For more information: HIV/AIDS