HIV/AIDS stigma grows despite progress in containing, treating the condition

Insight

While Africa continues to be the region most impacted by HIV, there has been significant progress there. A recent report from the United Nations AID programs cited the progress and a breakthrough is the way it is treated and prevented around the world. CCTV America’s Mike Walters reported this story.

HIV/AIDS stigma grows despite progress in containing, treating the condition

HIV/AIDS stigma grows despite progress in containing, treating the condition

While Africa continues to be the region most impacted by HIV, there has been significant progress there. A recent report from the United Nations AID programs cited the progress and a breakthrough is the way it is treated and prevented around the world. CCTV America's Mike Walters reported this story.

“What we do over the next five years will determine the next 15,” Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director said.

The fight against HIV and AIDS is at a critical point.

Over the past decade, United Nations data show 25 countries have cut their new HIV infections at least in half. This is progress that researchers and advocates link to an increased investment by local governments in education and testing.

The test for HIV is relatively simple.

But getting people to take it has been a long-time struggle in places like Mozambique.

“When I started doing tests around 2000, it was complicated because it was difficult to get medication. And people were asking, ‘I do the test and then what’ We didn’t know how to respond,” Sebastiana Cumbe, Doctors Without Borders nurse said. “When the Ministry of Health started buying the antiretroviral drugs and distributing medicine for free, the situation improved.”

Antiretroviral drugs are used to keep HIV at bay after a person is infected.

In most cases, HIV patients who regularly take their medication will live almost as long as those without HIV.

Experts say that the promise of a near-normal life is leading people to get tested.

“It’s better to know my health status before it’s too late,” Dinis, a local truck driver said. “I spend so much time on the road- I live on the road. For extramarital relations, I always use condoms for my own safety.”

The latest U.N. AIDS report shows progress in virtually every region of the world.

Between 2003 and 2013, most places saw a drop in the number of new infections per year.

Despite the progress, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with HIV infections annually.

“We have reached everyone who is easy to reach,” Sidibe said. “For the first time, we can show that 19 million of 35 million people living with HIV do not even know that they have the virus.”

Doctors have begun using mobile testing units to get to people in hard-to-access areas while researchers are trying to develop an HIV vaccine, which could prevent any infection.

One American group, based at the University of Rochester, is working towards a vaccine in pill form.

“That’s particularly important in some areas of the developing world with a high HIV burden where using needles can be a real problem,” Dr. John Treanor, University of Rochester Medicine said.


China ranks below other countries despite 104,000 new HIV infections

China still ranks far below most other countries in the world in terms of HIV and AIDS infections per capita. According to a recent report from the China’s Ministry of Health, there are about 780,000 people living with HIV in China. Discrimination against those with HIV was banned a decade ago, but some are still struggling to find their place in society. CCTV’s Han Peng reported this story from Beijing.

China ranks below other countries despite 104,000 new HIV infections

China ranks below other countries despite 104,000 new HIV infections

China still ranks far below most other countries in the world in terms of HIV and AIDS infections per capita. According to a recent report from the China's Ministry of Health, there are about 780,000 people living with HIV in China. Discrimination against those with HIV was banned a decade ago, but some are still struggling to find their place in society. CCTV's Han Peng reported this story from Beijing.

Doctors and advocates around the world are making progress to contain the virus.

In China last year, the country’s central health authority said there were 104,000 new infections.

That is an increase of nearly 15 percent since 2013. Officials said infections among elderly people are on the rise.

This is the first time Xiao Dong has agreed to speak on camera, though he’s asked us to change his name.

He contracted the disease from having unprotected sex while doing methamphetamine drugs.

Since then, he’s had to come in for testing every three months at a HIV medical center in Tianjin.

“When I first took meth, I felt so stimulated, and couldn’t control myself. My mind became empty and I had delusions. It triggered a strong desire for sex,” Xiao Dong, HIV/AIDS patient said.

Xiao Dong is just one of the nearly half a million HIV carriers in China, 80 percent of whom became infected through unprotected sex.

In addition to their many health challenges, patients must often also cope with social discrimination.

Professor Zhang Linqi has spent decades studying the social integration of HIV carriers in both China and the United States. He said so far in China, misconceptions about the disease are still a major cause of the prejudice against patients.

“Many still think they can be infected by contact like kissing, handshakes or even talking,” Deputy Director of the HIV/AIDS center at Tsinghua University said. “So once a person is known to have HIV, it’s very likely that he will be marginalized by his friends, neighbors and colleagues, who want to play it safe.”

In an attempt to erase such misinformation, and teach people how to prevent the disease, a growing number of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs in China are introducing basic courses about HIV into schools and communities.

There are an estimated 1,000 NGOs in China now devoted to HIV prevention and awareness.

With courses, Chinese people will begin to realize that while HIV/AIDS is incurable, it is preventable by maintaining a clean lifestyle. But that causes another moral dilemma: now people might not just see HIV carriers as victims that need understanding, but as ones with a stigma of having led an indulgent, or for some, unethical lifestyle.

Xiao Dong said he’s afraid that if his identity is revealed, he may lose everything, from his job and income to his social status. All because of a bad decision years ago.

“I regret it so much. I can’t help thinking about it all the time, Why did I take drugs and have unprotected sex? I hope young people will not repeat my mistake and cherish their lives,” Dong said.

Xiao Dong is coping with his new life carrying the virus. While he may never be cured of the disease, he hopes he will live to see a society that’s more aware and tolerant.