UK: World AIDS Day: ‘Kissing Doesn't Spread HIV - Ignorance Does'

Last Updated: 8 December 2015
Article by Karen Taylor

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

World AIDS Day, held on the 1st December each year, provides an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV1 and show their support for people living with, or having died as a result of, HIV. At the time of the first World AIDS Day, in 1988, the world was traumatised by HIV as becoming infected was seen as a death sentence. Today, for those with access to treatment, this deathly prognosis has been lifted and indeed the outcome has been largely positive for more than a decade. This weekend, the sudden proliferation of people in the media wearing red ribbons caused me to reflect on the origin of this symbol of support, especially as initially I had to be reminded what it signified. This is turn made me realise that the public campaigning for and media coverage of HIV/AIDS is now much less overt than 10/20 years ago, and consequently people's awareness may also be diminishing. While this is a renowned global problem2, this week's blog explores this topic in relation to developments in the UK over these past 30 years.

Without doubt, the key development in the fight against HIV/AIDS was the advent of antiretroviral drugs which enable people with HIV to reduce their viral level to the extent that they cannot pass on the virus and can live near-normal lives. Thanks to these modern drugs, the discovery that you are infected does not carry the crushing burden it once did, conversely, the availability of a successful treatment appears to be increasing complacency of those at risk. Public health experts warn that for all the advances that have been made, the battle is not yet won. In the UK, in 2014, some 103,700 people are thought to be living with HIV with 6,151 newly diagnosed cases. New diagnoses peaked in 2005 and have since declined. Fewer of those infected go on to develop Aids, but more than 600 people a year still die of the disease, mostly those in whom the infection was spotted late, indeed detection remains the weakest link.3

International targets are that 90 per cent of those with HIV infection should be diagnosed; of these, 90 per cent or more should be on sustained therapy with modern drugs; and of these, 90 per cent or more should have such a low level of the virus in their bodies that they cannot pass on the infection. While the UK achieves the latter two targets, it does less well on detection. People diagnosed late are ten times more likely to die in the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly. Public Health England estimate that in 2013 around 24 per cent of those with HIV infection remained in ignorance of it.

Changes to commissioning services, following the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, has led to a more complex set of arrangements whereby local authorities are responsible for commissioning services for sexual health, HIV prevention and testing, but NHS England are responsible for commissioning HIV care. In July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health concluded in a report this July that there is a lack of clarity over who is ultimately responsible, and what powers they have to drive up standards and outcomes.

Meanwhile, although medical science has undergone a revolution since Aids exploded in the 1980s, social attitudes have not caught up. Many people still do not know or truly understand the difference between HIV – a virus that attacks the white blood cells which co-ordinate the immune system – and Aids which is when the body becomes unable to defend itself under attack from other illnesses. Indeed, life expectancy for people with HIV, who are responding to treatment, is no different to anyone else in the population. Moreover, new drugs mean that HIV-positive women are able to have children without the virus and breastfeed. In fact, if HIV is diagnosed and treated, the infection is often undetectable in clinical tests. If undetectable, the infection cannot be passed onto others.

Nevertheless, the stigma and discrimination remain. Indeed, having HIV today is arguably even harder than before. The reason is the increasing role now played by social media, which HIV/AIDS sufferers have good reason to fear because, as recent news items have demonstrated, if one person posts something, it can go viral in no time and if one person is leading an attack on another, few are brave enough to condemn it.

So what is the origin of the red ribbon? This well-known symbol was conceived in 1991, when a group of 12 artists convened in New York to discuss a new project to raise awareness of HIV. After a short brainstorm they came up with the idea of the red ribbon, worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV. Inspired by the yellow ribbons tied on trees to show support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, pink and rainbow stripes were rejected because they were too closely associated with the gay community, and they wanted to convey that HIV went beyond the gay community and was relevant to everyone. Red was chosen as it is bold and visible – symbolising passion, a heart and love. The shape was chosen simply because it was easy to make and replicate. The red ribbon continues to be a powerful force in the efforts to increase public awareness of HIV. Other charities have been inspired to utilise the symbol, for example the breast cancer awareness pink version.

Finally, back to World Aids Day 2015, and its theme: Getting to zero; end Aids by 2030; a strategy aimed at averting 21 million Aids-related deaths, 28 million new HIV infections and 5.9 million new infections among children by 2030. While there is clearly a long way to go, one inexpensive way is to promote awareness and end ignorance and, in the words of Dr Zeuss, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Footnotes

1 Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

2 About 37 million people globally are now living with HIV – two thirds in sub-Saharan Africa where half the new infections occurred in 2014. Although some 15 million are receiving treatment, this means almost 60 per cent of people with HIV are not and, as a result, 1.5 million people died of Aids-related illnesses in 2014. The total funding for HIV globally is about $22 billion (£14.5 billion) a year, however, some organisations fear that HIV/Aids is in danger of falling off the aid agenda partly because it's been overtaken by other priorities such as the refugee crisis.

3 http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/western-central-europe-north-america/uk and https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/469405/HIV_new_diagnoses_treatment_and_care_2015_report20102015.pdf 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.