The other pandemic that we must cure - HIV/AIDS

Today is a day when millions around the globe join the fight against HIV and AIDS. We strive to better educate ourselves and communities, support those affected by the virus, commemorate those who have died, and challenge the stigma.

As the world properly focuses on Covid-19, on Tuesday's World AIDS Day we should remember that another pandemic caused by the spread of a virus from animals to humans. HIV has infected more than 77 million people worldwide and, despite significant progress in treatments, has killed over 35 million people -- including 690,000 last year alone. Two-thirds of all new infections and deaths occur in Africa. Now, UNAIDS estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic may set back progress on HIV by a decade.

The presence of HIV and AIDS mirrors that of global inequality. It flourishes in places affected by poverty, inequality, conflict, and low-resources. It’s estimated that approximately 920,000 people have been infected in North America, 540,000 in Western Europe and another 15,000 in Australia and New Zealand. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, as many as 25.3 million persons have been infected by HIV. Another 5.8 million have been infected in South and Southeast Asia, and 1.4 million have been infected in Latin America (Richard Parker, PhD, Department of Sociomedical Sciences).

Within these inequalities, the intersection of HIV/AIDS and gender inequality is well documented. Where the most vulnerable group used to be white gay men, poor women and girls of colour are increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic. Source

Their vulnerability relates to infection, the gendered personal and socio-economic impact of living with HIV or AIDS, and the huge burden of care that women in these societies inevitably face; not to mention the lack of both control over their own bodies, and government-funded education. It is clear that we cannot bring an end to AIDS if certain groups are left behind.  

By supporting charities such as the UNAIDS Foundation, volunteering, and engaging in the complex social and economic issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, you partake in an international conversation and encourage others to do the same.