December 1st marks World AIDS Day. This worldwide day of reflection is a time to evaluate the progress made to end AIDS in children and adolescents.
“We need to recommit ourselves,” said Chip Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. “There are folks that think that we’re sort of at the last chapter of HIV and AIDS and unfortunately, we’re still living with a virus. People are living with it. Thankfully, if they’re on treatment, they are living full, productive and healthy lives.”
The problem is, the virus hasn’t stopped spreading.
“It is still a pandemic, an epidemic that crosses multiple countries,” said Lyons. “On the one hand, we’ve had remarkable progress over the course of, not just those 30 years, but particularly the last five, six, seven years. Our battle is on behalf of children, because they’re so often left behind. There’s still 500 children that contract the virus every single day.”
Even though AIDS is a pandemic, we still have work to do here in the United States.
“There’s still over a million people, 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV,” said Lyons. “One in seven of them don’t know their status. This is hugely problematic, because that means they’re not on treatment. The other thing that happens when they’re on treatment is, if they suppress the virus, as it’s termed, what that means is, if you can’t detect the virus because you’re on treatment, then you can’t transmit the virus.”
Lyons is calling for anyone who believes they may have been exposed to get tested. Without treatment, half of HIV-infected infants will die before their second birthday.