Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) are believed to be originated in the West-Central Africa, and the oldest evidence of human transfer has been found in and around the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. The concept and term of HIV/AIDS were established and coined as late as 1983 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). After effects of the virus were first seen in homosexual men and drug users who had developed rare forms of autoimmune diseases, almost around the same time and demographics in The US. This alerted the CDC, and they — after enough research and analysis — came up with the conception of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome(AIDS). The origin of the disease has been found in our non-human ancestors first. The virus seems to have been evolved from other immunodeficiency viruses that were found in wild chimpanzees and other primates.
The spread of HIV can be linked to the spread of colonialism that brought about radical social changes in the traditional African societies giving rise to prostitution, and unprotected and casual sex. Evidence also states that several genital ulcer diseases(which had become common in colonial cities in the early 1900s) also resulted in the widespread epidemic of the virus, as other sexually transmitted infections increase the risk of HIV transfusion. In another view, it is seen that the unsafe sterilization practices post the second world war resulted in helping the virus adapt and spread to the human body.
In 2016, around 36 million people were living with HIV and estimated one million deaths were reported. Since its conception, it has come to be regarded as a pandemic — brutally spreading predominantly in the Sub-Saharan Region of Africa. Although the disease is prevalent in certain parts of South and South-East Asia, with an estimated thirteen percent of the population living affected by the virus. HIV and AIDS have also been a cause for concern for countries like The USA, The UK, Russia, Ukraine, Portugal, Belarus. The Middle East, North Africa, and Central and
Western Europe have been relatively safer. There is no cure for the virus, but if the infection is spotted in the early stages of development, it’s spreading can be slowed down by antiretroviral medications yielding a near-normal life expectancy. Although, the treatment option may vary from person to person has HIV is a very host specific infection and can complicate the treatment option. Effective management of the infection is possible using a combination of different antiviral drugs. Even to this date, AIDS comes with a lot of social stigmas — ostracizing and discriminating against the infected individual. The reason being — the individual is looked at as a person carrying a deadly disease that seems to have risen from homosexual contact (which is still considered a taboo in many countries.)
The HIV related stigma is majorly against certain social groups, and lifestyle choice — and the people infected with the disease are perceived as a reflection of those groups — even if they aren’t directly related to it. Despite the efforts of the CDC in spreading knowledge about the disease, large groups of people remain ignorant. Certain religious groups have publicly negated the usage of condoms or other methods of protected sex, despite knowing the repercussions of the disease. In fact, in 2011 it was reported that some Churches in London claimed that prayer could cure HIV, and many infected individuals stopped taking their medications on the direct advice of the pastor of the church. This led to a number of deaths.
In the International AIDS Conference 2016, leading experts on HIV and AIDS shared their perspective on how to best address the challenges and end this epidemic. Their views were about the increase in investments and preventive measures to fight with new HIV infections, the role of private sector in this pandemic, and most importantly, the urgency of providing marginalized population to the maximum access possible to treatment and care. The prevention rates in the past fifteen years have been remarkable. Despite that, the leaders believe that the risk of HIV is higher now than the beginning of the epidemic. They believe that the world needs to be more alert now than ever before and immediate actions should be taken for the prevention.
For preventive measures, the experts believe, that the role of the private sector collaboration is crucial. The experts also expressed that we as a society must look beyond the socio-political and cultural barriers and fight with unity against this deadly disease, uplift the marginalized corners that are more prone to HIV, and taking active preventive measures.