World AIDS Day Hopes To Fight Ignorance

Today is World AIDS Day, where people all around the world get to together to try to raise awareness of the disease and show others that it isn’t the same as it was back when HIV and AIDS were referred to as an epidemic. Things have changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the way that people speak about the disease. Most people have no idea what happens when you contract HIV, and so they assume that you are done for.

Close-up of hands holding red ribbons to rise AIDS HIV awareness.

Many awareness days choose a theme each year to try and spread a certain type of message. Throughout the years, World AIDS Day has done the same, and if you check out their website you will see that this year they really want us to #RethinkHIV and to stop spreading the ignorance that many do when talking about this sensitive topic. Here on Escort Scotland we take a look at the difference ways that people spread ignorance about HIV and AIDS, and tell you the things that you really should know when it comes to this disease.

It is no longer a death sentence

When HIV and AIDS were first discovered, it was spreading like wildfire, and we knew so little about it that people were panicking. The adverts on TV were showing, quite clearly, that getting HIV would immediately lead to AIDS and that it was a death sentence.

It used to be that, when you contracted HIV, it would develop into AIDS. AIDS basically makes it very difficult for your body to fight off different infections, so it wouldn’t technically be the AIDS that would kill you. Instead, you might get pneumonia or another type of infection or virus that would then wear you down and eventually kill you.

Thankfully things have changed now. You can get treatment to slow the impact of HIV on your body, and so the chances of it becoming AIDS are a lot less than they used to be.

To this day, some people still believe that it is a death sentence. They think that contracting HIV will kill you, but that simply isn’t the case. In fact, the World AIDS Day website tells us that “most people diagnosed with HIV now have a normal life-expectancy” in the UK, thanks to the treatments available. So those with HIV are actually going to live perfectly normal lives.

How HIV spreads

A big problem that those with HIV and AIDS face is the fact that people aren’t too clear on how it spreads. They believe that you can catch it simply from touching someone or kissing someone with HIV, and although that isn’t the case there are still a whopping 16% of people believe it can be passed on through kissing.

It can’t. In fact, there are only certain bodily fluids that can transmit HIV, such as semen, blood, rectal and vaginal fluids. The website tells us that “there are only three ways to get HIV – unprotected sex (95%), sharing needles and mother-to-child transmission”, with the risk of the latter being reduced to 0.5% if taking the proper treatment.

And yet, people are still very ignorant about it. They will distance themselves from HIV people, refusing to share a kiss or a drink in case they catch it. They can’t, and this year the people behind World AIDS Day have set up a kissing booth in Soho Square to declare that “kissing doesn’t spread HIV. Ignorance does”. It’s a great way to get people thinking about the important topic.

Once you have HIV or AIDS, that is it

Charlie Sheen recently coming out about his diagnosis has done us the world of good, as it is made people start asking questions about HIV and AIDS, but when he said he had an undetectable level of HIV, people were confused.

The World AIDS Day website hopes to clear that up by telling us that “if you are on effective HIV treatment you are non-infectious”, and they go on to tell us that, of those diagnosed with HIV, 85% of them are considered non-infectious.

So the chances of passing on HIV are greatly reduced thanks to the leaps and bounds in medicine, but for many there is still the worry that it can develop into AIDS and, when it does, you are on death row simply waiting for your time to run out.

Well, they manage to clear that up to. They say that “in the UK only 0.3% of people with HIV develop AIDS”. This is a tiny number, and it gets better. They explain that “even then they can recover and go back to only having HIV”.

The spread of ignorance

The problem is that World AIDS Day comes around once a year, and when it does you’ll find red ribbons everywhere declaring that it is time we started thinking about the disease and spreading positive information about it. Of course, with any day there are those who simply see it as one big joke.

Think about it. How many times has World AIDS Day taken place and you’ve seen people making jokes about that song from Team America, or the various comedians poking fun at the disease. All this does is spread the ignorance, as a very small number of these people actually know the first thing about HIV.

So, for World AIDS Day this year we are being encouraged to think positive and #RethinkHIV. They want us to get together and show that, with a lack of information, we are much more likely to spread HIV around.

Are you going to attend any events today and wear a red ribbon with pride, or perhaps you have some questions about HIV that remain unanswered? You can use the comment box below and we’ll do our best to answer, or you could visit the Escort Scotland forum and see what others have to say about this.

Lara Mills
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