HIV and AIDS
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, more commonly referred to as HIV, is a virus that weakens the immune system by attacking cells that fight illness. Once the immune system has reached a weakened state, people with HIV are then said to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.
Unlike other viruses that are easily spread by coughing and sneezing, HIV can only be transmitted through: unprotected sex, sharing of contaminated needles or syringes, childbirth or breastfeeding from mother to child where the mother is already HIV-positive, or from blood transfusion using blood containing the virus.
Without a blood test, HIV is very difficult to diagnose. It is not uncommon for the onset of symptoms to take 10-12 years after infection.
More than 7,400 people become infected with HIV everyday, adding to the more than 30 million people already living with HIV around the world. In total, HIV/AIDS has resulted in more than 25 million deaths globally since the virus was first diagnosed in the early 1980's (Source: UNAIDS).
While medications called antiretrovirals (ARV's) exist to help defend against HIV's attack on the immune system, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and AIDS remains a leading cause of death in many countries, especially those in Africa.
As of 2005, more than 15 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS worldwide. By 2010, this number is expected to grow to more than 25 million. Many of these orphans represent the more than two million children that live with HIV around the globe (Source: UNICEF).
Public and private investment into HIV/AIDS research and relief has grown exponentially in the last decade. Financial support from developed nations topped $8.5 billion in 2008 (Source: UNAIDS).
In 2003, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was established to combat HIV/AIDS globally. Renewed in 2008, PEPFAR will spend up to $48 billion over a five year period to fund HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, and care worldwide.
Despite this substantial investment, the crisis lingers on and conditions continue to worsen.
- Unicef: Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS
- United Nations: UNAIDS
- World Health Organization: HIV/AIDS