(Photo Credits: CDC.gov)

Today—December 1, 2020—is World AIDS Day. 

Every year, on this day, people and communities around the world take the time to remember the millions of people who died from HIV/AIDS these past four decades, to celebrate “our achievements over the past year,” and to pledge “to work in even more inclusive and innovative ways over the coming year.” 

Why continue to commemorate World AIDS Day though?

It’s because “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s most serious public health challenges,” says HIV.gov. In fact, over 32.7 million lives were lost to AIDS-related illnesses since the beginning of the epidemic and today, over 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS globally. This is why now, more than ever, it is important that the whole world is committed to “stopping new HIV infections and ensuring that everyone with HIV has access to HIV treatment.” To learn more about HIV/AIDS by the number, read here.

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day 2020 in the US is Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact. 

According to HIV.gov, 2020 has been particularly challenging for the HIV community because of the challenges brought about by COVID-19. HIV.gov said that “COVID-19 has not only forced us to adapt our response to HIV/AIDS in communities to ensure continuity of services, but also reinforced the urgency of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.” For more information about COVID-19 and people living with HIV, read here.

UNAIDS, on the other hand, has chosen Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility as this year’s theme for World AIDS Day. 

Amakobe Sande, the interim United Nations resident coordinator in China, highlighted the threats brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic during her speech for the 2020 World AIDS Day. She said:

<blockquote>This year’s World AIDS Day is like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development, including the gains we have made against HIV over the past four decades.</blockquote> 

Further, Sande emphasized that “Global problems need global solidarity,” emphasizing that we cannot “rest on our laurels especially because we are now fighting two colliding epidemics of HIV and COVID-19.” She added, “In responding to COVID-19, the world cannot make the same mistakes it made in the fight against HIV.” 

Sande also repeated part of the UNAIDS secretary-general’s World AIDS Day statement: 

Despite significant successes, the AIDS emergency is not over. HIV still infects 1.7 million people each year and kills some 690,000. And inequalities mean that those who are the least able to stand up for their rights are still the most affected.

Read her speech in full here.

While indeed, we cannot rest on our laurels yet just as Sande had said, it is also important to look back and see how far we have come.

Just recently, for example, US had approved a breakthrough HIV test that not only diagnose HIV but also simultaneously measures a person’s viral load thereby allowing doctors to begin the patient’s treatment right away, Gay Star News (GSN) reports

The test, called Aptima HIV-1 Quant Dx by Hologic, has recently been approved by the US FDA making it the first diagnostic test that not only detects the virus itself but also the person’s viral load. 

Before this development, says GSN, it takes weeks and a number of clinic visits and tests for the newly-diagnosed HIV patients to “work out their viral load” thereby delaying their treatment for weeks.

In a statement, Kevin Thornal, president of diagnostic solutions at Hologic, said: 

This is an exciting new claim for our highly sensitive and reliable HIV test because it has the potential to improve patient care. A simultaneous viral load measurement with diagnosis will allow health care providers to guide treatment choices for patients to begin therapy immediately.

Thornal added, “The dual claim will also benefit our clinical laboratory customers, who continuously seek to consolidate their testing as much as possible onto one automated platform.”

According to Hologic, their test runs on an automated sample-to-result system called Panther and the company have so far, over 2,250 clinical diagnostic laboratories with Panther systems across the globe.

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