With any hope of an effective vaccine still years away, prevention and education remain our only effective weapons in tackling this epidemic, but these are dependent on political leadership and will.
We know that good HIV prevention campaigns work, but in countries where talking about sex and relationships is not widely accepted, such campaigns are extremely difficult to implement.
In the UK, Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has worked consistently with communities who are most at risk of HIV to ensure that people continue to receive the information they need to protect themselves from HIV, and to help them stay well if they do become infected.
However, the prejudice and discrimination that people with HIV continue to face in many aspects of their daily lives, is much harder to tackle.
Although it is tempting to think that HIV is a disease that only really affects the developing world, no country can afford to be complacent in its approach.
The UK currently has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, as well as the worst rates of sexually transmitted infections since the NHS was founded in 1948. These facts clearly demonstrate that people are having unprotected sex and are not taking care of their sexual health.
In addition, a recent survey by THT found that a third of young people questioned believe there’s a cure for HIV (there isn’t!) and two thirds think they didn’t get adequate information about the risks of unprotected sex when they were at school.
In the week after World AIDS Day, take some time to reflect on your own knowledge of and attitudes towards HIV – are you as well-informed as you think?
- Martin Kirk is the parliamentary and campaigns officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust