For years, even as the virus and resulting disease devastated human bodies, stigma stuck, sticky and sickly.
Because ignorance has always proven to be a close companion of poverty, it systematically fed those dark days when many benighted people were made to believe that HIV could be spread by any form of contact at all and that it was some sort of curse that could neither be cured nor managed.
Many also hastily and erroneously believed that those who got infected had were given to loose sexual lives. No thought was given to the many innocent children who were infected through mother-to-child transmission.
A health emergency.
According to the World Health Organization( WHO),Human immunodeficiency virus(HIV) is an infection that attacks the body`s immune system, specifically the white blood cells called CD4 Cells.
HIV destroys these CD4 cells, weakening a person`s immunity against opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis and fungal infections, severe bacterial infections and some cancer.
In 2020,37.7 million people in the world were living with HIV. Of these,73% had access to retroviral therapy while 16% of them did not know that they have HIV in 2020
Danger signals from UNAIDS
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Since the first cases of HIV were reported more than 35 years ago,78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Since it started operations in 1996, UNAIDS has led and inspired global, regional, national and local leadership, innovation and partnership to ultimately consign HIV to history.
According to a new report,UNAIDS Global Aids Update 2022,in the past two years, multiple and overlapping crises that have rocked the world have had a devastating impact on people living with and affected by HIV, and they have knocked back the global response to the AIDS pandemic.
The new data revealed in the report is as frightening as they come and have shown that the promise to end AIDS by 2030 as promised is faltering and faltering fast.
Faltering progress has meant that 1.5 million new HIV infections occurred last year – more than 1 million more than the global targets.
Every two minutes in 2021, an adolescent girl or young woman was newly infected with HIV. The COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions to key HIV treatment and prevention services, millions of girls out of school, and spikes in teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence.
The AIDS pandemic took a life every minute in 2021, with 650,000 AIDS-related deaths despite effective HIV treatment and tools to prevent, detect and treat opportunistic infections. The number of people on HIV grew more slowly in 2021 than it has in over a decade: while three quarters of all people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment, approximately 10 million people do not.
Only half (52%) of children living with HIV have access to life-saving medicine, and the inequality in HIV treatment between children and adults is increasing rather than narrowing.
COVID-19 has complicated the AIDS pandemic
It also appears that COVID-19 has strained the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as 60% of the world`s poorest countries are in debt distress or at high risk of it, and an estimated 75 to 95 million people have been pushed into poverty.
The report showed that 4000 people become infected with HIV every day while 650,000 people died of AIDS-related causes in 2021.
Countries that have robust estimates of increasing new HIV infections since 2015 are Afghanistan, Algeria, Belize, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, the Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea,Fiji, Georgia,Greece, Guatamela, Guyana, Honduras, Ireland, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Uruguay and Yemen.
Thankfully, Nigeria is not one of them.
However, if Nigeria needs any motivation to continue to do everything to contain HIV/AIDS and ensure that more people do not get infected, it would only need to reference the damning report from the UNICEF that in 2020 one Nigerian child was infected with HIV every 30 minutes which translated to about 20,635 children becoming newly infected with HIV in 2020 with 30% of AIDS-related deaths occurring in children.
For every Nigeria, and every child, Nigeria has to keep the number of infections down to the barest minimum.
Until HIV/Aids is finally eliminated, there can be no let up in efforts to achieve set goals.