The red ribbon is the global symbol for AIDS. PHOTO: ph images

Dec. 1 symbolizes World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness for human immunodeficiency virus(HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome(AIDS). HIV is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids with an infected person. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, making a person with HIV easily susceptible to many other illnesses and diseases. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV at this point, and if left untreated, it can be fatal.

Although there is no cure, there are medications that can mitigate the effects of HIV. If the effects are successfully mitigated, the medication can allow someone infected with HIV to continue living and makes them unable to transmit HIV to others. There are about 39 million people globally who have HIV. Additionally, there are ways to prevent getting HIV at all. There is a medicine called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, that people at high risk for HIV take to prevent it. 

AIDS appears at a late stage for people infected with HIV that has gone untreated or unnoticed. It is widely regarded as the most severe stage of this virus. HIV, in its late stages, becomes known as AIDS and, at this point, becomes untreatable and fatal. The average expectancy of time before death once diagnosed with AIDS is three years. Additionally, if the person diagnosed with AIDS also has another illness caused by their weakened immune system, their life expectancy is shortened to one year. There is no known cure for HIV once it enters the AIDS stage, and because of that, about 630,000 people die annually due to AIDS.

HIV and AIDS are prevalent issues, especially from a global health lens, and have affected a variety of people. Famous singer Freddie Mercury and model Gia Carangi both died from HIV/AIDS. Another factor that makes this virus so vicious is that people of all ages can fall victim to it. Due to the prevalence of this virus, in 1988, December 1st was determined to be a day dedicated to AIDS awareness. 

This year, Pace students in the ICGL Global Health Fellows Program plan to honor the day and use it to bring awareness to the issue.

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.