HIV is a virus, but it is one surrounded by stigma, taboo, myth and misinformation. Our vulnerability to HIV is also bound up with gender inequality, poverty, hunger, migration and conflict.
Until we are able to talk openly about HIV, to inform ourselves and to respect people living with HIV, we will never be able to tackle this pandemic that has struck Africa more strongly than anywhere else on the planet.
ACORD works in the region of the world worst hit by the HIV pandemic. Two-thirds of the people living with HIV in the world live in sub-Saharan Africa, and three-quarters of the people who die each year from AIDS are also in sub-Saharan Africa.
ACORD has been working on HIV since 1995 and has had an integrated programme mainstreaming HIV in all aspects of its work since 2002. ACORD seeks to:
- prevent the further spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa by addressing both the immediate and root causes
- mitigate the economic, social and psychological impact of HIV and AIDS on individuals and communities through the provision of effective care and support services
- promote equal access to information, services and treatment, and all human rights by challenging all forms of discrimination and social exclusion
ACORD works through supporting local community led initiatives and broader social movements aimed at influencing thinking, policies and practices at all levels.
ACORD’s current work includes:
- empowering people living with HIV and AIDS: for more than 15 years ACORD has been helping networks of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) become established and has partnered with them in ongoing advocacy.
- workplace policies: building the capacity of staff in ACORD’s own offices and of partners to make themselves ‘HIV competent’.
- food sovereignty and HIV: the interconnections between HIV and hunger are not just medical, but also economic, social and political.
- hard to reach communities and HIV: ACORD focuses its efforts on stigma eradication by explaining the linkages between stigma and increased spread of HIV.
- gender inequalities: for every 10 adult men in sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV, there are about 14 adult women who are infected with the virus. Inequalities in all areas of life fuel this statistic, including women’s lack of power in sexual relationships.
- Maputo promise: In 2003 African governments promised to allocate 15% of national budgets to health care. They need to keep this promise.
The human immunodeficiency virus or HIV attacks a person's immune system, damaging the body's ability to protect itself and making the person more vulnerable to diseases. When the immune system is badly damaged by HIV, a person is said to have 'acquired immunodeficiency syndrome' or AIDS. If the person does not receive any treatment with anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy, they will die of one of the diseases to which the virus has exposed them.
Angolan soldiers who took part in a training process on gender and HIV. Photo: media co-op
ARVs prevent the virus from multiplying in a person's body and thus slow the rate at which it damages the immune system, although it cannot get rid of the virus completely. A person taking ARVs can live a healthy, productive, long life without becoming sick or unable to work. However ARVs cannot cure AIDS or prevent the virus being transmitted.
Most people infected with HIV will not develop any symptoms for 5-10 years. They may not realise they are infected but they could pass on the virus. The only way to be sure you are not infected is to have a blood test, to check either for the virus itself, or for antibodies to the virus. Being tested is a sign of responsibility, not of shame.
HIV can only be transmitted in three ways:
- penetrative sex (vaginal, anal or oral)
- blood transfusion or sharing injection needles
- from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding
You can protect yourself and others from HIV by:
- knowing your HIV status and getting regular HIV tests
- talking honestly about HIV with your partner
- using condoms
- reducing the number of people with whom you have sex
- not sharing needles
- getting an HIV test if you are pregnant
You can find out more at UNAIDS Fast Facts.
|Myth:||I can tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them|
|Actually:||The only way to know if a person has HIV is for them to take an HIV test.|
|Myth:||A woman with HIV can’t have children without infecting them.|
|Actually:||If the woman is not being treated for HIV, there is around a 1 in 4 chance that a baby would also have the virus. If the woman is taking ARVs the risk of the virus being transmitted is very small — 2 in 100.|
|Myth:||You can catch HIV from kissing.|
|Actually:||You can’t. No evidence has been found that HIV can be transmitted through kissing.|
|Myth:||Mosquitos can transmit HIV.|
|Actually:||HIV is a human virus and it cannot survive in insects, so even if a mosquito bites a person who has the virus, the mosquito cannot infect anyone.|