Insufficient access to protection, information, and life-saving medicaments, as well as prejudice and exclusion – some 38 million HIV-infected people around the world face problems like these time and again. Even though they can live like everyone else if their disease is treated in time. Every year since 1988, World AIDS Day on the 1st of December commemorates the people who have died as a result of HIV and AIDS and recalls the need to strengthen the rights of those affected around the world. Too many still do not receive the essential medication they need, and too often HIV-positive people are stigmatised, leading to other others keeping their distance out of fear for infection.
Discrimination is often the result of prejudice and ignorance, which is why awareness-raising plays such an important role. Not only in the context of the annual World AIDS Day. As an educational institution, the PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute (PEHI) in Addis Ababa takes its responsibilities of creating awareness about health seriously. The project-based volunteer Kaleab Gebeyehu has therefore recently devoted himself to AIDS and HIV prevention at the PEHI and compiled an information booklet for PROJECT-E students. On the occasion of World AIDS Day, we would like to present some of the essential information Kaleab has summarised.
HIV prevention at PEHI – the fight against infection and stigmatisation
HIV, short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a retrovirus that attacks the body’s immune system, making infected individuals more susceptible to other diseases. AIDS, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is an advanced stage of HIV infection. As a result of the damage to the immune system caused by HIV, a specific and potentially life-threatening combination of symptoms occurs. The main routes of HIV transmission are unprotected sexual intercourse, blood transfusions or infected syringes, as well as transmission from mother to child, during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Condom-based contraception can make an essential contribution to prevention during sexual intercourse. But there are also antiretroviral treatment options available, which reduce the likelihood of transmission to others and slow down the progression of the disease. In the fight against the stigma of the disease and those affected by HIV is it vital to dispel the myths surrounding HIV and AIDS. Kaleab mentions, for example, the fear that infection is likely to occur during non-sexual physical contact or more probable during sex with a virgin, but also the misconception that only gay and bisexual men or people who use drugs can be affected.
World AIDS Day
On the occasion of this year’s World AIDS Day, PROJECT-E would therefore also like to emphasise once again how important it is to end the rejection of and discrimination against people infected with HIV. Education, not only in the context of HIV prevention at PEHI, but also in other areas, plays a significant role. It is as (if not more) crucial as giving access to potentially life-saving drugs to all those who are affected worldwide – because then, as the World AIDS Day website says, ‘the global epidemic could already have been stifled’.