The greatest grand challenge for any scientist is discovering how to prevent the spread of HIV and finding the cure or an effective vaccine for AIDS.
~ Philip Emeagwali
When HIV first became apparent as an epidemic 30 years ago, the life expectancy for those who became infected was not good, often coming in under 19 years. In recent years that rate has improved to 53 years (for those infected at age 20), meaning that HIV sufferers have a lifespan nearly as long as that of an uninfected person. HIV Long-Term Survivors Day celebrates those who have been living with HIV for decades, and are still surviving today.
History of HIV Long-Term Survivors Day
HIV Long-Term Survivors Day was established as part of aids.gov to help raise awareness of the aging face of HIV. Today over 59% of people who are infected with HIV and living with it are over 50 years of age. Needless to say, that is both a beacon of hope as well as a note for concern, and we’ll soon be living in a world where 70% of people with HIV are over age 50. Living to a ripe old age was a dream that was stolen from those who had become infected with HIV in years past, and this increasing number speaks of a greater hope as well. That before long there will be no one living with HIV, the epidemic is almost over.
But for those still living with it, special concerns exist. Those who have lived with HIV the longest have typically developed resistances to multiple drugs used for treating their symptoms, and the ongoing battle with HIV may have left them with physical damage. In part due to having taken medications that were less effective, and caused both cardiovascular and neuropathy. Long-term survivors require a higher level of specialized care, and HIV Long-Term Survivors Day is focused on raising awareness of these needs.
How to Celebrate HIV Long-Term Survivors Day
Celebrating HIV Long-Term Survivors Day can happen in multiple ways, but the best way to do it is to learn all you can about those around you who are living with HIV and what you can do to help them. Further, help to reduce stigma against those with HIV by exploring the facts behind the causes, and how it’s transmitted. Even this late in the game there’s a lot of stigma against HIV sufferers, and HIV Long-Term Survivors Day is a great opportunity to help reduce it a little more.