Courtney Dickson, Wellness Columnist Ω
The first day of December means we get to start our advent calendars and that most of the creepy moustaches from Movember will disappear. It also marks the 25th World AIDS Day, a day to raise awareness and support those living with HIV and AIDS and to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease.
HIV attacks the immune system, weakening their body’s defence against infection and other diseases. It’s contracted through semen, vaginal secretions, blood and breast milk. There are various stages of HIV, the last of which is AIDS.
AIDS can take anywhere from two to 15 years to develop, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). When AIDS takes holds, it can mean severe medical issues may begin to arise.
In 2012, an estimated 35 million people were living with HIV worldwide. Between 1985 and 2012, more than 74,000 Canadians tested positive for HIV, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The number of new cases reported has been decreasing since 1996, but it’s still too many.
The WHO has held strong to the theme of “Getting to Zero” for the past couple of years. Their goal is to ultimately eradicate HIV and the discrimination and stigma surrounding it. This year, the WHO is campaigning primarily for improved access to prevention and treatment for young people living with HIV.
Durex and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation have started a campaign to educate people about HIV, primarily enforcing that anyone is susceptible to the disease. They also plan to give away 10 million condoms, as unprotected sex is a common way HIV is transmitted.
HIV and AIDS are important to recognize, because while scientists are working on it, there is no cure. Those living with the disease can take medication in order to live healthier lives, but it’s something that will never go away. Not only are there physical issues involved with AIDS, but also psychological and emotional issues. People who know little about it often don’t know how to handle themselves around those with HIV, making life uncomfortable for people who are already having difficulty.
Stigma and the disease itself can only be decreased, and as the WHO hopes, eradicated, through education. Learning about AIDS and HIV in order to protect yourself and others is important, but it’s also important to know the facts and understand what those who have unfortunately contracted the virus are dealing with.
You can pick up some free condoms from TRU’s wellness centre, as well as any other information about AIDS and HIV. Kamloops is also lucky enough to have the ASK (AIDS Society of Kamloops) Wellness Centre on the North Shore, where knowledgeable and friendly staff are working to educate the community and provide care for those living with HIV and AIDS.
It may not have an effect on you now, but one day you or someone you know may end up with the virus. If we can all learn a little more about AIDS, hopefully the stigma attached to this disease can be suppressed and the care for those affected can improve.