In 1983 I was working in Evanston, Illinois as a nurse. I was a new nurse. I was a young nurse — only 23. Evanston Hospital was then what it is now — a teaching hospital. We had a number of medical students as well as residents, at that time primarily from Northwestern University. One day a bunch of us were told to don gloves, gowns, and masks. There was a new disease, a new and terrifying disease. They didn’t know anything really about it. Just that it depressed the immune system to a point where the body can no longer defend itself against bacteria, against fungus, against viruses – the body is open game to any germ around. Thus the need to don gloves, gowns, and masks.
A week later the patient died; in the week preceding his death we hardly wanted to care for him. We were all terrified.
We’ve come a long way. We now know that AIDS is the end result of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). We now know that if diagnosed early, the chance of living a healthy and normal life is high. We now know that over half of those diagnosed with HIV in the world are women. We now know that over 34 million people around the world are living with HIV. We now know that if a woman is on treatment for HIV, and gives birth, there is a high chance that the baby will be born HIV free.
This day, December 1st, is set aside every year to raise further awareness of AIDs. A red ribbon is the symbol and the goal of those who organize this day is to continue the fight of prevention, awareness, and treatment for HIV/AIDS around the world.
I urge you to learn more about this disease, a disease with a huge stigma affecting men and women around the world – particularly developing countries. For more information take a look at these facts compiled from the World Health Organization fact sheet. You can get access to the entire document and find out more here.
- HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 25 million lives over the past three decades.
- There were approximately 34 [31.4–35.9] million people living with HIV in 2011.
- Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV. Sixty nine per cent of all people living with HIV are living in this region.
- HIV infection is usually diagnosed through blood tests detecting the presence or absence of HIV antibodies.
- There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives.
- In 2011, more than 8 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low- and middle-income countries. Another 7 million people need to be enrolled in treatment to meet the target of providing ART to 15 million people by 2015.