World Aids Day 2022 – AIDS, Is it talked about enough? Do we still consider it a threat? It seems, for some, it is part of our history, a story to be told about young gay men in London dying of an unforeseen illness. TV programs, films, and books to be observed with little talk about it’s relevance in today’s society. So, with World AIDS day happening on the 1st of December 2022, we ask ourselves…

Should we be concerned about AIDS?

AIDS is still one of the most widespread, deadliest pandemics worldwide, with over six hundred thousand people dying yearly. It is said that nearly forty million people currently live with HIV/AIDS worldwide, with over one hundred thousand here in the UK.

While the number of people infected remains high, new cases over the last five years have only dropped by ten per cent. Stigma and ignorance remain two of the most significant barriers to fighting AIDS or HIV. So, how can we change this?

World Aids Day 2022

In the UK, men and women were petrified of sex after the AIDS campaign “Don’t die of ignorance” was launched in 1986. Although thousands of complaints came in at the time about the scaremongering television ads and terrifying billboards, the campaign was deemed one of the most successful in history.

In recent years, programs such as “It’s a sin” have highlighted the scenes of yesteryear, when young men were traveling to London for freedom of lifestyle only to be caught up in the AIDS pandemic.

While the program was worthy of an award, I’ve yet to see an attempt to catch a more modern-day reflection of the disease – which would be greatly welcomed.

HIV in the UK

Current estimates suggest there are over five thousand people currently walking around undiagnosed here in the UK. In addition, over 50% of people in the UK are diagnosed late, so this year we see the expansion of the NHS opt-out routine testing.

Routine HIV testing expansion in London

Before now, only at-risk patients entering the NHS system would be offered an HIV test, but due to the high numbers of undiagnosed patients and the pledge to eliminate all new HIV diagnoses by 2030, routine testing is open for all.

This means you will be tested unless you “opt-out”.

Due to this new government investment, we expect new diagnoses to rise for a short time until we see a sharp drop. HIV is incurable, so testing and diagnoses are important to secure our children’s future in the UK and worldwide.

What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?

Many people, especially the young and uneducated, still don’t understand the differences between HIV and AIDS; many people still do not consider both to be the same virus, and yet they are. It is only time that connects the two.

What is HIV

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that attacks the immune system. Without medication, HIV can cause damage to your health. This may present itself in many ways, as we have seen on Channel 4’s “It’s a sin”, with young men dying of cancer, liver failure, and lung diseases. HIV stays in your body forever; however, it can be treated.

If HIV is left untreated and lasting damage is done, it is then considered AIDS.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV. Your immune system can no longer cope with viruses and infections at this stage. AIDS is life-limiting.

AIDS – Know the facts

  • Nearly 50% of people are diagnosed late, with over 50% of those being heterosexual men.
  • Only 3% of diagnoses made are linked to injected drug use.
  • In London alone, new diagnoses of HIV have decreased by a massive 54% in the last five years.
  • HIV is not just a sexually transmitted disease passed on by semen; it can be passed on through blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk.
  • 97% of people on HIV treatment are considered “virally suppressed, ” meaning they can’t pass the virus on. This is known as U=U – see below.
  • In low-income countries, it is the second leading cause of death, with Ischaemic heart disease topping it by only a few per cent.
  • AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV. HIV is treatable. Get tested, get treated!

How do I know if I have HIV?

Some people will develop flu-like symptoms about four weeks after infection.

Symptoms include –

  • Fever and chills
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Body rash
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen glands
  • Muscle pain

It is important to remember that many people may have little to no symptoms and can go undetected for many years.

What does U=U mean?

U=U: Undetectable = Untransmittable. This means if you have a low viral load of HIV due to the treatment (ART) you cannot transmit HIV, even without using condoms or PrEP.

What is ART?

ART is antiretroviral therapy. With this therapy, you can be U=U. Undetectable = Untransmittable. This allows you to continue to safe sex life. Although you can not pass on HIV when you are U=U we would still recommend using protection such as condoms.

What is PrEP?

PrEP also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, can reduce your chance of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. PrEP is often offered to those at considered high risk of being exposed to HIV through sexual contact or injection drug use.

HIV diagnoses

  • HIV blood tests – Different blood tests are offered depending on the length of time since your exposure.
  • For HIV1, an early detection RNA test can be done from 10 days post-contact, which offers same-day results.
  • For 5th-generation HIV, a P24 test can be done from 28 days post-contact.

If you are unsure when you came into contact, don’t worry, we can talk you through testing, and if your test is positive, we can discuss a treatment plan. The main thing is you get tested.

HIV Prevention:

Again, PrEP is a prevention drug offered to those at high risk of contracting HIV. This could be someone who is in a sexual relationship with someone diagnosed with HIV or someone who has many sexual partners. Contrary to belief, it is not just offered to gay men, it is also offered to trans men, trans women, and well as heterosexuals.

If you are concerned you may be at risk of HIV, get in touch today. We can discuss in detail more about PrEP and its benefits.

HIV Treatment

HIV is treated with antiretroviral medicines. These work by stopping the virus from replicating in the body, allowing your immune system to repair itself and to remain healthy.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you wish to book a test or simply talk through a recent diagnosis and treatment.

I have over 21 years of experience providing sexual health screening and advice on men’s health. I offer a completely confidential, professional, non-judgemental service from start to end. So if you are worried about HIV or any sexual health condition, simply get in touch today. All of our services are designed around your comfort; from home testing and video and phone consultations, to face to face appointments, we are here for you.