Learning about HIV/AIDS

Learning you’re sick is frustrating. But if you are poor, it can be downright terrifying.

Especially when it’s HIV/AIDS.

Testing positive for HIV is about more than a health problem.  In many cultures, people with HIV or AIDS are shunned by their communities like a modern-day leper. And it’s difficult for sick parents to provide for their children or for sick kids to go to school. Without proper nutrition, their chances of survival plummet.

But with education, this is starting to change. Parents and children are learning what HIV is and how it affects the body. They’re able to care for themselves and prevent it from spreading. And they’re teaching their neighbours and family members. Instead of ignoring the symptoms, many are getting tested and receiving the treatment they need to live productive lives.

The first step to fighting HIV/AIDS is to learn more about it.

What is HIV/AIDS?

  • HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is what causes AIDS.
  • AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. When a person has AIDS, their immune system becomes highly vulnerable to infections, cancers and other disorders.
  • HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusions, sex, contaminated hypodermic needles, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
  • There is no cure for HIV infection.In 2014, 1.2 million people died from HIV-related causes globally. [4]
  • However, effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives.
  • In just three years, from 2010 to 2013, deaths from AIDS-related illnesses fell by 19 percent. [7]
  • Globally, new HIV infections declined by about 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, falling from an estimated 3.5 million new infections to 2.1 million. [7]
  • In 2014, approximately 150 million children and adults in 129 low- and middle-income countries received HIV testing services, and 14.9 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally, of which 13.5 million were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries. [4]

Children and the Virus

  • In 2011, new infections in children were 43% lower than in 2003, and 24% lower than 2009. [4]
  • In 2013, approximately 17.7 million children worldwide under age 18 had lost one or both parents due to AIDS-related causes. [7]
  • In six countries (Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Togo and Zambia), the number of children newly infected declined by 40–59% from 2009 to 2011. In 16 additional countries, declines of 20–39% occurred during the same period. [5]
  • AIDS-related deaths, however, have not decreased among adolescents aged 10 to 19. This could be due to lack of access to testing and treatment for this age group. AIDS remains the number one killer of adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. [7]

Danger zone: sub-Saharan Africa

  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 25.8 million people living with HIV in 2014. [4]
  • This regions accounts for almost 70 percent of the global total of new HIV infections. [4]
  • In 2011, Sub-Saharan African children made up approximately 93.9% of children living with HIV globally: 3.1 of 3.3 million children. [4]
  • In 2011, 92% of pregnant women living with HIV resided in sub-Saharan Africa. [6]
  • In 2011, coverage of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa reached 59% [53%–66%].

Compassion’s Stats

  • Between July 2014 and July 2015, Compassion provided $5.1 million for HIV/AIDS medical treatment support and $400,000 for preventative education initiatives.
  • According to our records, 18,876 rounds of antiretroviral therapy were given in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania between July 2014 and July 2015.
  • First-time HIV testing was administered to 155,983 Compassion children, 33,814 siblings and 63,163 caregivers.
  • Currently, both children and the parent who are HIV-positive are supported by the HIV Support Fund of their local Compassion centre. They regularly have food. Medication is provided by the government, but when they suffer from other opportunistic diseases, the centre is there for them.
  • Along with these supports, Compassion offers HIV/AIDS prevention education that is contextualized for the country, region and age groups of children, helping them remain healthy and maintain their dignity.

How is Compassion helping?

On Sept. 30, 2015, the World Health Organization issued new policy guidelines for the treatment of people with HIV, saying anyone infected should begin antiretroviral therapy as soon after diagnosis as possible. With its “treat-all” recommendation, WHO removes all limitations on eligibility for this therapy among people living with HIV; all populations and age groups are now eligible for treatment. Based on the new recommendations, the number of people eligible for antiretroviral treatment increases from 28 million to all 37 million people who currently live with HIV globally.

In many countries, antiretroviral therapy is provided by the government. If it isn’t, Compassion helps registered kids and their families get access to it. Beyond the medicine, there are several other ways we come alongside those living with the virus: [1]

  • Transportation to get kids and their parents to health clinics
  • Nutritional support (antiretroviral medication is more effective when combined with a healthy diet)
  • Lab tests to determine the stage of the disease
  • Prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections (weakened immune systems are often targets for other infections)
  • Psychological support
  • Home-based care and supplies, allowing them to be cared for by people who love them as well as avoiding germs at the hospital.

World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. Each year it gives people an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the virus and to commemorate people who have died. We hope this has helped you understand a bit more about how you can join the fight against HIV/AIDS.



[1] http://aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/

[2] http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/world-aids-day/

[3] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs360/en/

[4] http://www.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/epidemiology/2012/gr2012/20121120_FactSheet_Global_en.pdf

[5] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20rev%20(July%201).pdf

Written by: Aveleen Schinkel

Aveleen is Compassion Canada's Senior Video Producer. Her passions include photography, writing, child advocacy and fine arts—and sampling tea from every country she travels in.