Thirty years into the AIDS pandemic, UNAIDS estimates that 33.3 million people globally are living with HIV. This number includes an estimated 2.5 million children under the age of 15 years.The number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries has increased thirteenfold since 2004, to more than 5 million. However, only 35 percent of people in need of treatment are currently receiving it. Roughly 10 million people cannot get the medication they need.
The Catholic Church is playing its part, operating 117,000 centres to care for AIDS victims throughout the world. 27% global institutions caring for AIDS patients are run by Catholics. The South African Catholic Bishops Conference AIDS office supports projects and programs in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa, making it one of the largest anti-HIV/AIDS programmes in Southern Africa and active in many of the countries with the world’s highest rate of HIV infection. The Church cares for orphans of the AIDS epidemic, it works to place them in foster homes and helps to support foster families, it runs education and prevention programs for primary and secondary school students, home care and counselling programs for those who are HIV-positive, it provides patient units for the terminally ill who have no-one to care for them and a program to provide drugs to reduce the incidence of mother-to-child transmission.
The spread of HIV is not confined to the developing world. In 2010, 69, 424 people were treated for HIV in the UK, a 6% increase on the number in 2009 (65,292) and a 166% increase since 2001 (26,088). According to the most recent figures of the UK Health Protection Agency, there were an estimated 80,800 people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2009, of whom 67% were male and 33% female.
A recent review of 14 studies showed that in discordant couples a consistent use of condoms leads to an 80% reduction in HIV incidence.
HIV transmission is reduced by approximately 80% when condoms are used correctly 100% of the time.
80% reduction is good, but it is not enough. Doesn’t everyone deserve adequate protection? There is a method of achieving 100% risk avoidance. Why settle for anything less? It is World AIDS Day, not World Condom day. There is no such thing as safe sex.
In the meantime we must continue to fight for equal healthcare for all of those affected by the ravages of this dreadful disease.
Stay safe and keep your loved ones safe.
*Sources: The US National Institute of Health & the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Weller SC & Davis-Beaty K (2007), ‘Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission‘.