Our generation has seen the global eradication of one devastating disease, Smallpox, and the emergence of another, Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV has been uniquely merciless in its reaping of the young and the healthy in their prime, in its mutations and transformations into a thousand awful ways to die. It was almost two decades into the pandemic before there was a glimmer of hope, with the synthesizing of effective antiviral medications.
After so many lost and so much deepening despair, there is some bright news. The same treatments that save lives reduce the risk of transmission. Although we do not yet have medications that eradicate the virus, we have medications that reduce the viral load. These medications, when used correctly, not only save the lives of those infected, but reduce the incidence of infection between partners and from mother to baby.
This development makes the ambitious goal of ‘getting to zero’ more than a wish.
“Getting to Zero”: UNAIDS Milestones For 2015
Zero vertical transmission and a 50% reduction in AIDS-related maternal death
A 50% reduction in the sexual transmission of HIV
No new HIV infections among drug users
Universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV
who are eligible for treatment
A 50% reduction in deaths caused by tuberculosis for people living with HIV
Improved national social protection strategies and access to essential care and support for people with HIV and households affected by HIV
A 50% reduction in the number of countries that have punitive laws and practices around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective responses
A 50% reduction in the number of countries with HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence
The HIV-specific needs of women and girls are addressed in at least half of all national HIV responses
Zero tolerance for gender-based violence
Social justice is integral to fighting an epidemic on this scale. Prevention is vital. The growing list of effective medications does not change the fact that HIV is a terrible disease that currently has no cure. All the ‘safer sex’, education, vigilant infection control in medical care still stands. In fact, it matters even more, now that we have a hope that this pandemic may finally be defeated.
AIDS Project RI is offering free rapid HIV testing today.
The rapid HIV test is done with a mouth swab with results on the same visit, another small piece of good news. No blood draw, no waiting weeks to find out.
More information may be found at www.aidsprojectri.org, by calling 401-831-5522, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.