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World Aids Day: everything has changed yet nothing has changed

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On 1 December it is World Aids Day and while great advances have been made in treatment, the stigma still remains.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a disease that compromises your immune system. If left untreated, it can progress to a more serious stage when it is considered as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Things have changed considerably since the disease was first identified 30 years ago. In 2017, with the right treatment and care, a person living with HIV is expected to live as long, or even longer, as someone who doesn’t have the virus. When on effective treatment, which results in very low numbers of virus particles in the bloodstream, the risk of passing it on is minimal. Yet, the stigma often remains. Many Kiwis living with HIV still have to face misconceptions on a daily basis.
Dr Anne Robertson, MDHB’s medical head of sexual health says: “Sadly, you still hear stories of people worrying when an HIV positive person sneezes, just in case they spread HIV, or people being worried that their child’s teacher is HIV positive. These worries are not only baseless, but also have a very negative impact on the lives of those with the virus. HIV doesn’t kill people, but stigma does. Let’s leave our fears behind and end the silence and the HIV related discrimination.”
Around 3500 people in New Zealand are estimated to be living with HIV. However; there are Kiwis living with HIV that don’t know it yet. You can live with the virus for a long time without having any symptoms. People who are unaware of their HIV infection risk passing it on to others.
Dr Robertson said: “Many recently diagnosed patients are late presenters, meaning they may have been living with HIV for years without knowing.
There are still many myths around and one of these is that it only affects gay men. The reality is that anyone engaging in unprotected sex is at risk of catching HIV, with most HIV cases worldwide being transmitted through heterosexual intercourse.”
If you have had unprotected sex, you can get a FREE and easy HIV test through MidCentral Sexual Health Service on 0800 808 602. You can also get tested through your GP, or at YOSS, if you are under-24.
Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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