Marked on the same date every year since 1988, World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. The wearing of a red ribbon has become synonymous with the day and is the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV.
Currently there are over 100,000 people in the UK living with HIV and nearly 37 million people worldwide. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Sexual Health Nurse Polly Zipperlen said “The most important message to relay is that HIV can affect anyone regardless of age, sexual orientation, colour, religion or gender. Many people do not get symptoms for some time after they become infected – yet they are very infectious at this time. I would urge anyone who feels they may have been at risk, however small to get tested – the service is completely confidential and free of charge.”
Janice Rees, Lead Blood-borne Virus Specialist Nurse continues: “I have seen huge developments in the treatment of HIV since I started in 1995. People diagnosed with HIV can now be successfully treated and will live a perfectly normal life. They can even have their own children safely and with minimal risk of transmission.”
HIV is transmitted in the following ways:
- By having unprotected sex with someone who is infected, so always use a condom. They can be obtained free from sexual health clinics and the Blood-borne Virus nurses.
- By getting infected blood into your blood stream. This may be through sharing any injecting equipment; sharing snorting equipment; having tattoos or piercings done in unhygienic conditions or by infected blood getting into open wounds. NEVER share any injecting equipment including filters, spoons, water. Needle exchange is available throughout the counties and pharmacies taking part can be identified by the yellow and green arrow on their door. When having piercings and tattoos make sure that sterile equipment is opened in front of you and in the case of tattoos make sure a sterile ink pot is used and not a ‘communal’ inkpot. If in doubt – don’t have it done!
- Mothers can transmit the virus to the babies – but with treatments now available, this can be prevented.
If anyone thinks they may have been at risk of contracting HIV, tests, including a full sexual health check up, can be undertaken at your local sexual health clinic – call 01267 248674 between 0915hrs and 1630hrs – Monday to Friday to book a confidential appointment. For further information please visit the Hywel Dda Sexual Health Services website pages: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/862/page/52860/
The Blood-borne Virus Nursing service also offer free confidential testing, call Janice Rees on 01437 773125 / 07899915835 for Pembrokeshire, Donna Blinston for Ceredigion on 01970 635614 or Nicola Reeve for Carmarthenshire on 01554 899016 / 07977 486665.
The nurses from both teams can also be contacted if you want any advice or have any questions about HIV.
Sexual Health Nurse Helen Rollins concluded: “World AIDS day is still vitally important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.”