When AIDS was first discovered in 1981 it was terrifying. No one was pretending otherwise. Here was a disease with no cure and no sign of one coming any time soon. The UK government even marketed information about AIDS and HIV by using the image of a giant tombstone.
Moving forward 33 years, advances in treatment for HIV since then have meant that, proportionally, fewer people are now dying of AIDS in developed countries. But an overall cure is still a way off, despite the many millions spent on research. No one can say when we will be able to happily carve a death date on that AIDS tombstone, marking the end of the HIV virus and its effects. Even among groups that no one thinks are that impacted the numbers of HIV infections continue to creep up. In 2012 there were 2,880 new cases of HIV passed on through heterosexual sexual contact.
Until there is a safe, widely available cure for HIV and AIDS people will continue to die. Nowadays this is mostly those who do not seek treatment early enough. But even those who are receiving treatment for HIV can later develop problems due to not taking drugs or developing other infections. The side-effects of drugs can be unpleasant and there are many problems associated with a positive diagnosis, not least mental anguish, stigma and discrimination.
At the raTrust we believe in the power of education and safe sex in helping to bring an end to HIV and AIDS. We know that medical advances are a part of the solution, but the fewer new cases there are, the fewer people will face being infected in the future. The maths are simple.
To this end, we work at those at most risk of contracting or spreading HIV. This means that we work with young people, sex workers and those who are already HIV-positive. We pass out condoms, we help people to get tested and we provide support, advice and education wherever it is needed. You are as likely to find us giving one-to-one help or advice as you are to find us giving out leaflets or condoms at a public event.
Naturally, all of this work takes a great deal of time, as well as money. We have many fantastic volunteers (and are always looking for more!), but it is donations that keep us out there and helping. Please consider giving if you can. And if you cannot, then please spread the word, by sharing our blogs, our Facebook posts or our messages on Twitter. We can’t do it without you. Stay safe.
Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.