While drug cocktails can hold the HIV virus at bay and allow the many who are infected to lead healthier and longer lives, the battle is certainly not over. More than 1mn people died of HIV/AIDS in 2015. To date, there have been more than 35mn known deaths from this terrible disease.
In 2015, there were about 37mn people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide, and 2.1mn new cases of HIV infection are reported annually. In the United States, there are 1.2mn people living with HIV and 50,000 new cases a year.
What is the situation in Japan? Data available for 2014 states that there are about 17,000 cases of HIV and 7,600 AIDS cases in total. Some 70% of those infected are in their twenties and thirties. The reported numbers are relatively low, but the trend is on the rise. We have heard anecdotally, from doctors in Japan, that the reported cases represent a figure well below the actual number of infections. This is due to the cultural stigma associated with the disease.
We have not yet conquered this devastating virus, but the world is trying. Over 17mn people living with HIV are taking antiretroviral therapy (ART), more than double the number who received treatment in 2010. Mother-to-infant infection has been reduced greatly, as 77% of pregnant women around the world with HIV now have access to antiretroviral medicines.
December 1 is World AIDS Day. This was actually the first Global Health Day when it was established in 1988—just four years after the virus was identified. The day is all about coming together to fight HIV/AIDS, supporting those impacted by the disease, and remembering those who have perished. People around the world show their solidarity through numerous activities, from concerts and fund drives to seminars and bake sales. The red ribbon has become the symbol to show support.
HealthyTokyo.com is doing its small part by introducing in Japan, for the first time in English, a Home Test Kit for HIV. This simple and confidential test is sent to your designated address. After taking a small drop of blood and placing it in the accompanying solution, you mail the whole thing back in the return envelope and receive your results in just one week.
AIDS is not cured, but we can all do our part by being properly tested, taking care to use protection, and supporting the millions of people around the world who have been infected with HIV.