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Opinions of Sunday, 1 February 2015

Journaliste: Tikum Azonga

Why the HIV AIDS Test Frightens Us


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Undoubtedly, the subject of HIV AIDS is one of those that have topped the league table of health conversations in recent decades. When the pandemic was first publicized decades ago, very little was known about it to the extent that some observers affirmed that no such threat existed.

However, with time and worldwide sensitization, many have come to believe that not only is HIV AIDS real, it is also a major threat. The problem is that many people are still not bold enough to be tested and to know their status vis-a-vis the pandemic.

This problem has been highlighted by a report published by UNAIDS which indicates that of the 35 million people living with AIDS in the world, up to 19 million of them do not know their status. That figure of 19 million is alarming because it represents 54.2 per cent of People Living with Aids, which is over half of that population.

According to the account which is entitled `UNAIDS Gap Report`, there is however encouraging news for Sub-Saharan Africa because up to 90 per cent of people who are HIV-positive and know it are currently receiving treatment (Antiretroviral Therapy – ART) there.

The report pinpoints the benefits of knowing one`s status: “Research shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, 76% of people on ART have achieved viral suppression, whereby they are unlikely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners. New data analysis demonstrates that for every 10% increase in treatment coverage there is a 1% decline in the percentage of new infections among people living with HIV.”

The report states that efforts being made to make ART available worldwide are working: “In 2013, an additional 2.3 million people gained access to the life-saving medicines. This brings the global number of people accessing ART to nearly 13 million by the end of 2013. Based on past scale-up, UNAIDS projects that as of July 2014 as many as 13 950 296 people were accessing ART.”

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe however cautions that “If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030; “If not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take adding a decade, if not more.” The report affirms that by ending the epidemic by 2030, the world would avoid some 18 million new HIV infections and 11.2 million AIDS-related deaths between 2013 and 2030.

The UNAIDS account also announces that “in the last three years alone new HIV infections have fallen by 13%. It is estimated that 35 million people were living with HIV in the world at the end of 2013. AIDS-related deaths are at their lowest since the peak in 2005, having declined by 35%.

Tuberculosis continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. New HIV infections among children have fallen by 58% since 2001 and dropped below 200 000 for the first time in the 21 most affected countries in Africa.”

The way forward is for each and everyone to know their status. This can only be done by being tested. Those who are found to be HIV-positive will immediately be put on ART treatment which in Cameroon is free.

Health authorities in the country have made it known that those who come forward will be treated in strict confidentiality. It is only in this way that we can attain zero infection in the country.

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