World AIDS DAYEach year, people around the world observe World AIDS Day on December 1. The aim is to raise awareness about issues surrounding HIV and AIDS and to show support for those living with the AIDS virus as well as those who have died from the disease. This year, the theme of World AIDS Day is Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.

Compared to the past, more effective prevention, treatment, and care is available today that save millions of lives. Awareness has increased and research continues to progress. Nevertheless, the world is still working to get closer to an AIDS-free generation.

According to a new report from UNAIDS

  • There were 35 million people in the world living with HIV at the end of 2013
  • 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV globally do not know their HIV-positive status
  • AIDS-related deaths are at their lowest since the peak in 2005, having declined by 35%

The theme of World AIDS Day 2014 represents both the substantial advances being made in the global response to HIV as well as the ongoing challenges in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. The decline in AIDS-related deaths could be attributed to the wider availability of life-saving antiretroviral drugs, progress in HIV vaccine research, and fall in mother-to-child transmission of HIV. To move closer to achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation, countries across the world will continue to focus on eliminating new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.

This World AIDS Day, there is also the need to focus on specific groups in the population.

UNICEF has said that while there has been a decline of nearly 40% in AIDS-related deaths between 2005 and 2013, there has been no decline in AIDS-related deaths in the age group 10-19.

Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, AIDS 2014 International Chair, President of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris has drawn attention to key affected populations, notably in many parts of the Asia Pacific region, which have been left behind in terms of accessing treatment, prevention and care, fuelling HIV among these groups.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV. About 14% of people with HIV in the country do not know they have the virus and the CDC says that clinical testing is the only way they can find out.

In fact, clinical laboratories have a very important role to play in HIV diagnosis and treatment by ensuring effective enzyme immunoassay (EIA) tests. These tests use blood, oral fluid, or urine to detect HIV antibodies. More than 90% of infected people develop antibodies to different proteins of HIV within a period of 3 to 6 weeks after infection. Medical laboratories also need to join other partners to spread awareness about the importance of getting tested and to help people get the treatment they need.