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What is World AIDS Day?

Nov 29, 2016, 11:34 AM

World AIDS Day takes place every year worldwide also in the Gambia 1st December.

Prevention, Risk factors, transmission, Diagnose, Treatments

World AIDS Day has taken place on December 1st every year since 1988.

It provides an opportunity to draw attention to the HIV epidemic around the world. Many people choose to organise an event on or around December 1st, to raise awareness of HIV, to remember loved ones who have died, to show solidarity with people living with HIV, to celebrate survival and health, and to raise money for HIV and related causes.

For many people the day is associated with the red ribbon, an instantly recognisable symbol. Wearing a red ribbon is a simple way to show your support, and there are also many other ways in which you can get involved.

 Key facts

• HIV is one of the world’s leading infectious killers, claiming more than 25 million lives over the past three decades.

• There were approximately 34.2 million people living with HIV in 2011.

• HIV infection can be diagnosed through blood tests detecting presence or absence of antibodies and antigens.


HIV is one of the world’s leading infectious killers, claiming more than 25 million lives over the last 30 years. In 2011, there were approximately 34.2 million people living with HIV. Over 60% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months, many are unaware of their status until later stages. The first few weeks after initial infection, individuals may experience no symptoms or a flu-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.

As the infection progressively weakens the person’s immune system, the individual can develop other signs and symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, meningitis, and cancers among others.


HIV can be transmitted via unprotected and close contact with a variety of body fluids of infected individuals, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions.

Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water.

Examples of HIV transmission routes include:

• Unprotected sex with an HIV- infected partner;

• Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding;

• Transfusion with HIV-infected blood products;

• Sharing of contaminated injection equipment, tattooing, skin-piercing tools and surgical equipment.

Risk factors

Behaviors and conditions that put individuals at greater risk of contracting HIV include:

• having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and bacterial;

• sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other infecting equipment and drug solutions for injecting drug use;

• receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions, medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing;

• Experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers.


An HIV test reveals infection status by detecting the presence or absence of antibodies to HIV in the blood. Antibodies are produced by individuals’ immune systems to fight off foreign pathogens. Most people have a “window period” of 3 to 12 weeks during which antibodies to HIV are still being produced and are not yet detectable. This early period of infection represents the time of greatest interactivity but transmission can occur during all stages of the infection. Retesting should be done after three months to confirm test results once sufficient time has passed for antibody production in infected individuals.

People must agree to be tested for HIV and appropriate counselling should be provided. HIV test results should be kept confidential, and everyone should receive post-test counselling and follow-up care, treatment and prevention measures as appropriate.


Individuals can reduce the risk of HIV infection by limiting exposure to risk factors. Key approaches for HIV prevention include:

Condom use

Correct and consistent use of male and female condoms can protect against the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Evidence shows that male latex condoms have an 85% or greater protective effect against the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Testing and counselling for HIV and STIs

Testing for HIV and other STIs is strongly advised for all people exposed to any of the risk factors so that they can learn of their own infection status and access necessary prevention and

The transmission

HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called vertical or mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). In the absence of any interventions transmission rates are between 15-45%. MTCT male circumcision when safely provided by well-trained health professionals reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. This is a key intervention in generalized epidemics with high HIV prevalence and low male circumcision rates.

Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of Han be fully prevented if both the mother and the child are provided with antiretroviral drugs throughout the stages when infection could occur.

Harm reduction for injecting drug users

People who inject drugs can take precautions against becoming infected with HIV by using sterile injecting equipment, including needles and syringes, for each injection. A comprehensive package of HIV prevention and treatment, substitution therapy for drug users includes drug dependence treatment, HIV testing and counselling, HIV treatment and care, and access to condoms and management of STIs, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis.

Treatment services without delay.

WHO response

Since the beginning of the epidemic, WHO has led the global health sector response to HIV. As a co-sponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), WHO takes the lead on the priority areas of HIV treatment and care, and HIV/tuberculosis co-infection, and jointly coordinates with UNICEF the work on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

This date concerns all of us, not only because we are all possible subject to risky behaviour, but also because we can all contribute to greater awareness of this problem, as well as we can improve the conditions for infected and affected persons.

The symbol of the fight against HIV/AIDS is red ribbon, which has become recognized worldwide as a sign of solidarity with infected and affected people.

 HIV is abbreviation for „human immunodeficiency virus“, which affects human immune system. HIV virus affects only humans and is a precondition to get AIDS. This disease is contagious and incurable.

Since the beginning of epidemic, almost 78 million people were infected by HIV, and it caused death of almost 34 million people. World Health Organization (WHO) and Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimate that in this moment almost 36.9 million (34.3-41.4 million) people are HIV positive. Yearly, over 2 million people get infected, and more than 1 million dies due to the HIV related causes. It is estimated that more than 0.8 % of adults, age 15 to 49, live with HIV, although this numbers significantly differ in different countries and regions.

Today, people who are HIV positive, thanks to medication, can live relatively normaly. According to UN data, in the end of 2012., 35,3 million persons were living with HIV, which is 18% more than in 2001.

Virus is most commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse and less often by infected blood, from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding. Virus cannot be transmitted by usual social encounters or by animals.

World AIDS Day is marked every year on December 1. Worldwide, in order to raise awareness of epidemic, encourage progress in prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS, and express solidarity and support for people affected by this disease. In period from 2011-2015, theme of world AIDS day was focused on improvement and strengthening of public health programs and prevention and stigmatization of HIV/AIDS as a global response on epidemic, with the moto: „Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.“

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, first case of HIV positive was recorded in 1986, and by the year of 2015, there were 287 registered cases. In 2015., there were 13 new HIV infections (FBiH 10, RS 3), of which 6 had AIDS (FBiH 5, RS 1). In last five years, Bosnia and Herzegovina registers about 20-25 newly infected persons per year.

According to data from the year of 2013, there were 28 HIV positive persons in Canton Tuzla, 12 of which had AIDS. During 2013, 2 newly infected persons were registered, 11 patients were receiving therapeutic treatment, and 8 more were under active supervision, because infection was not in stadium that requires treatment. During the same year, 7 deaths caused by AIDS were recorded


By raising the awareness of people about HIV/AIDS in your community.

By wearing red ribbon and suggesting others to do the same.

By protecting yourself – this is the primary and most important way of stopping AIDS spread.

If you think there is a reason – get tested for HIV.

For further information call on Government National HIV/AIDS Agency (NAS), every government hospital EFSTH and clinics, MRC and number of NGO and private Clinics, email azadehhassan@yahoo.co.uk, text to 00220 7774469/3774469.

Author DR AZADEH Senior Lecturer at the University of the Gambia Senior Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Clinical Director Medicare Health Services