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Sierra Leone News: Know your status – World AIDS Day 2018

World AIDS Day 2018 was Saturday 1st December and was commemorated under the global theme “Know your status”. The occasion also marked the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, first initiated by WHO in 1988. World AIDS Day was initiated to raise awareness about HIV and the resulting AIDS epidemics. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have acquired the infection, and about 35 million people have died – that’s five times the population of Sierra Leone. Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV, of whom 22 million are on treatment. In the late 1980s, “the outlook for people with HIV was pretty grim,” said Dr. Rachel Baggaley, coordinator of HIV testing and prevention at WHO. “Anti-retrovirals weren’t yet available, so although we could offer treatment for opportunistic infections there was no treatment for their HIV. It was a very sad and difficult time.”  But, in 2018, the outlook is brighter thanks to drug treatment development, testing and diagnostic processes, prevention, awareness raising and general knowledge. In 2017, Sierra Leone experienced approximately 3,200 new cases of HIV infection. UNAIDS estimates there are between 55,000 and 73,000 people in Sierra Leone living with HIV. They also estimate that between 2,100 and 3,200 people die due to AIDS. The number of people in Sierra Leone receiving Anti-Retroviral Treatments is 23,693.

Key facts:

  • HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 35 million lives so far. In 2017, some 940,000 people died from HIV-related causes globally.
  • There were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2017 with 1.8 million people becoming newly infected in 2017 globally.
  • The WHO African Region is the most affected region, with 25.7 million people living with HIV in 2017. The African region also accounts for over two thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.
  • 59% of adults and 52% of children living with HIV were receiving lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2017.
  • Global ART coverage for pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV is high at 80%.
  • HIV infection is often diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which detect the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. Most often these tests provide same-day test results, which are essential for same day diagnosis and early treatment and care.
  • There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission so that people with HIV, and those at substantial risk, can enjoy healthy, long and productive lives.
  • It is estimated that currently only 75% of people with HIV know their status. In 2017, 21.7 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally.

According to the WHO, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens people’s defence systems against infections and some types of cancer. As the virus destroys and reduces the functioning of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immune-deficient, meaning their bodies cannot fight off even minor infections or diseases. Immune function is typically measured by CD4 cell count. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can take from 2 to 15 years to develop depending on the individual. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections, or other severe clinical issues. HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected individuals, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions. Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water. 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, including among health workers.


Monday December 03 2018.

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