Are we any closer to an HIV-free generation?

There are still so many misconceptions and stigma attached to HIV, but the improvements made in treatment, testing and awareness about the disease suggest that an HIV-free generation is possible. Here’s more.

Easy access to testing and treatment

There are currently more than 37 million people worldwide who are living with HIV, and South Africa is among the 15 countries with the highest number of infections. As a result, we have made testing and treatment more accessible. There are free testing stations in lots of communities, and medication is given immediately after diagnosis. It’s a good idea for you to make sure you get tested as often as possible, especially if you are sexually active.

PrEP and PEP

The introduction of PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) are proof that we are closer to an HIV-free generation. PEP is a treatment that can be taken within 72 hours of someone being possibly exposed to HIV. PrEP is a daily treatment that’s used to prevent individuals who are HIV-negative and at high risk of getting the virus from contracting it. Recently, researchers have spoken about an injectable form of PrEP, which can be taken every two months but more research still needs to be done on this.

HIV-awareness and activism

Organisations and individuals who are increasing HIV awareness and working to end HIV stigma, are making it possible for people to get tested and treated without fear of judgement. They’re also helping other people see that HIV is not a death sentence and that it’s possible for people to live normal lives with this condition.

What still needs to be done?

There’s still a long way to go for us to achieve an HIV-free generation. The main focus is to continue to educate people in communities that are vulnerable and have limited access to information and healthcare. The more people learn about HIV, the more they will actively prioritise safe sex, testing, and treatment. Doing this will also help encourage people to know their status and prevent spreading the virus.

How you can play your part

Every one of us has a role to play to ensure that we can achieve an HIV-free generation. You can play your part by always using a condom, going for regular HIV testing, being on PrEP if necessary, challenging stigma, and constantly educating yourself and those around you about this virus.