~ Weekly Health Advice from PMGH – World AIDS Day, 1st December 2016 – Part 1 of 3 ~

Welcome to another health update from the Port Moresby General Hospital. With World AIDS Day this week on the 1st December we would like to share with you some information on the importance of safe sex, HIV testing and the global impact of HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.
Global HIV Statistics from UNAIDS:
– 18.2 million [16.1 million–19.0 million] people were accessing antiretroviral therapy (June 2016)
– 36.7 million [34.0 million – 39.8 million] people globally were living with HIV (end 2015)
– 2.1 million [1.8 million – 2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV (end 2015)
– 1.1 million [940 000 – 1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses (end 2015)
– 78 million [69.5 million – 87.6 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic (end 2015)
– 35 million [29.6 million – 40.8 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic (end 2015)
For more information, head to http://www.un.org/en/events/aidsday/
What is HIV/AIDS?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. Infection with the virus results in progressive deterioration of the immune system, leading to “immune deficiency.” The immune system is considered deficient when it can no longer fulfil its role of fighting infection and disease according to World Health Organisation (WHO). Infections associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as “opportunistic infections,” because they take advantage of a weakened immune system. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a term which applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. It is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers. According to UNAIDS approximately 36.7 million [34.0 million – 39.8 million] people globally were living with HIV (end 2015). HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal), and oral sex with an infected person; transfusion of contaminated blood; and the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes, surgical equipment or other sharp instruments. It may also be transmitted between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Its important to remember that HIV is not spread like airborne viruses such as the flu and cannot be passed on by hugging, shaking hands, coughing or sneezing or by sharing toilets, eating utensils or consuming food and beverages handled by someone who has HIV. Only certain body fluids: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviours and needle or syringe use. The presence of other sexually transmitted infections increases the risk of HIV transmission which is why regular condom use and STD testing is important. Everyone has a mutual responsibility to protect each other not just from HIV but from other STD’s. Always practice safe sex and talk to your doctor about your HIV risk.
Remember: Tuberculosis (TB) is the most common presenting illness among people with HIV including those who are taking antiretroviral treatment. Talk to your doctor at your local urban health clinic about TB testing if you are HIV positive.
Risk factors
Behaviours and conditions that put individuals at greater risk of contracting HIV include:
– having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
– having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and bacterial vaginosis;
– sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs;
– receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions, tissue transplantation, medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and
– experiencing accidental needle stick injuries among health workers.
We will be posting more useful information on HIV/AIDS over the next few days. Please check back soon.