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AIDS is an extraordinary kind of crisis that is both an emergency and a long-term development issue. Despite increased funding, political commitment and progress in expanding treatment, the AIDS epidemic continues to outpace the global response. No region of the world has been spared. The epidemic remains extremely dynamic, growing and changing in character as the virus exploits new opportunities for transmission. The UNAIDS/WHO global overview of the AIDS/HIV epidemic has reported in the year 2003, almost five million people became newly infected with HIV, the greatest number in any one year since the beginning of the epidemic. At the global level, the number of people living with HIV continues to grow.
In the year 2001 the number increased from 35 million to 38 million in 2003. In the same year almost 3 million people have died of AIDS; over 20 million have died since the first cases of AIDS were identified in 1981 (5).According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 850,000 to 950,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States one quarter of which are unaware of their infection (par.6).Based on these statistics it is an obvious fact that this is a growing problem which continues to get worse year after year. The AIDS epidemic has been established as not only a national problem, but just as well as an international problem. In 2003, young people (15-24) accounted for nearly half of all new infections of HIV worldwide; more than 6,000 became infected everyday (par.3). I become very dismayed to find out that the majority of people that are infected with this terminal disease are at the ages where many at this age go out in the world to make a life for themselves. But, because of lack of responsible actions they must live with this disease for the remainder of their lives. Even though there are many types of treatment for those infected with this disease and with treatment AIDS/HIV patients can live a lot longer than 20 years ago when the first cases of AIDS were identified, the fact still remains it is an incurable disease.
The most vital factor that will have to come into play to make a significant difference in slowing down or possibly stopping this epidemic is prevention. But, despite the seriousness of this problem there are many factors that come into play that discourage steps in prevention.In my opinion, the two main barriers that get in the way of preventing further infections, adequate care and support and treatment to lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS are shame and apprehensive thoughts of being discriminated against. These two barriers can be set off by many factors. Many of which include the lack of understanding the disease, myths about how the disease is spread, prejudice and social fears. Thoughts of mortification and becoming filled with fear of being discriminated against can discourage many people from getting tested, contribute to them infecting others and prevent people who are infected from getting adequate treatment and care.
Peoples positions in society could have a tendency of fueling shame, discrimination, and risky behavior. It seems that it is many times thought that members of a community who are viewed as living proper lives can not become infected with HIV/AIDS. Only those who do not have any morals and are promiscuous are the ones who go out and become infected. When the thought of only being viewed as living a proper life is set into an individuals head, it easily becomes linked together with apprehensive thoughts of being discriminated against. Individuals who become infected with HIV/AIDS may become fearful of how people will react to the news and may become afraid that they will look at them differently now. Because of this it makes people afraid to find out whether are not they have this disease mainly fear of others reactions. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that one-third of Americans were concerned that people would think less of them if they found out they had been tested for HIV (par.7).Another main factor that may lessen the impact of possible prevention of HIV/AIDS is that many think they are not at risk of contracting this disease. For example, people who come from a small community might see that a majority of people who contract this disease are in more urban populations. Because of these thoughts they may think the HIV/AIDS epidemic does not relate to them or their community. According to a new national survey 8 of 10 (80%) heterosexual adults say the number one reason why they do not get tested is that they do not consider themselves at risk of being infected with HIV, an indication that more HIV/AIDS prevention education is needed for heterosexuals (par.4).
One possible solution to these many factors that get in way of prevention of this epidemic could be wider access to VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) it could lead to openness about HIV/AIDS and lessen fears of stigma and discrimination. If people could actually see individuals who have HIV/AIDS speak out about their infection it could then encourage others to come forward to get tested. If people who have been tested and have found out they had HIV/AIDS speak out before they become seriously ill, this could change the image of HIV/AIDS illness from suffering and death to living positively with the disease.
HIV positive individuals involvement in activities that contribute to the reduction of the two main barriers of prevention; shame and fear of discrimination could be vital. People speaking out about living with HIV and how they are learning to cope could be one of the many steps that need to be taken to tackle these barriers. This can make people realize that HIV is part of their community and is not just omeone elses problem. A HIV negative individuals role in their community should not be undervalued. Friends and family who show support for an HIV positive individual could have an immense influence on others to show wider support for those who are infected.Just one action can not be taken to overcome these many barriers linked to the prevention of this epidemic. But, there are many things that could be done to overcome them. The fear of prejudice that lies at the core of HIV discrimination needs to be tackled at both community and national levels.
A more compliant community needs to be established so there can be an increase of acceptance of HIV positive individuals and can be viewed as a normal part of society. Some may disagree with this; others may suggest that if HIV positive individuals are viewed as a normal part of society it could lead people to think it is acceptable to have HIV/AIDS and further precautions in protecting themselves from it may not be taken. I would suggest that every individual desires acceptance, but it depends on the situation that the person is in that would result in the amount of acceptance that could easily be given.
In other words, it is hard to become accepted in society when acceptance is hard as it is to come by, and there is obvious discrimination that is linked to having this disease. Fear of being discriminated against is one of the main reasons why a person is afraid to find out whether or not they are a carrier of this disease. It is obvious that many people believe that contracting this disease is very unacceptable, and would not view it as being okay of contracting it.In conclusion, many people are afraid to know the truth in fear of how people will react and are worried that they will be looked at differently. Many are just afraid to find out the truth, because they may not be able to accept and deal with the reality of the truth appropriately. A CDC( center of disease control and prevention) study interviewed 2370 HIV-negative or untested people, 25% of those who were tested and 23% of those who delayed testing said the fear of a positive result was the main reason why they delayed testing (par.2). The biggest step in stopping this epidemic before it continues to have an even bigger impact on the world is obviously prevention.
People need to become more aware of the risks and must become more responsible in protecting themselves. A crucial factor that would help the prevention of this epidemic even more is getting tested. I must quote the infamous lines that are said in getting tested commercials that are frequently aired on MTV and VH1, œKnowing is Beautiful.
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