Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thirty years of AIDS

In 1981, the world was shocked and horrified to learn a new virus had been diagnosed. There was no cure. The virus worked on the human body by destroying its ability to fight off infection. Slowly, sufferers got weaker, their bodies wracked with pain, wasting away until they died.

The virus is called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, and the illness it causes is Acquired Immuno Deficency Syndrome – AIDS.

Thirty years on, there is still no cure, although treatments have alleviated some of the sufferings and helped prolong both life and its quality for many sufferers, especially in the prosperous countries of the world. However, those who live in the developing world, whose finances won’t allow them to pay for the necessary drugs, continue to suffer.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the hardest hit areas of the world, with more than 24 million people living with HIV. That is 6.1% of the population, which compares to just an infection rate in North America, Western and Central Europe of just 0.5%.

With no cure, prevention is the main weapon in the fight against the virus, yet across the world, less than one in five people at risk of infection has access to basic prevention services. Only one in eight people who need to be tested for the virus have the opportunity for those tests.

The spread of the virus has been exacerbated by myth and rumour, as well as by ignorance. In certain countries, people believed that having sex with virgins would cure them, which led to the abuse of young girls, who were then infected themselves.

Infected men passed it on to their wives, who passed it on to babies in pregnancy or through breast feeding, and another generation was blighted.

Because it became known as a sexually transmitted disease, it was shrouded in shame and secrecy. Sufferers could lose jobs, livelihoods and status because of the virus, so many tell no-one they are infected, which inevitably leads to further infections.

In future, we hope, research will lead to successful treatments and cures. In the meantime, we do what we can to halt the spread of the virus. World In Need works to educate people, so that the myths can be dispelled and ignorance countered.

Our sponsorship programme spreads education, which empowers vulnerable people to protect themselves, reducing their susceptibility to the false beliefs and superstitions surrounding HIV.

Sponsored children are less vulnerable too, to lifestyles which endanger them. They don’t have to resort to begging and prostitution in order to survive, and are less likely to fall prey to those who would use and abuse them. They grow into adults who can make informed decisions which protect them, in areas such as family planning.

HIV and AIDS are curses in our modern world. Together, we can work to halt their spread and build a future of freedom for those who are now at risk from them.

If you’d like to know more about helping us in the fight for the future of the children of the world, why not contact us at

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