Thursday, 1 December 2011

World Aids Day 2011

Today is World Aids Day. It is a often a poorly publicised event in the global media, notably in the UK, despite the fact that there are over 90,000 people in the UK living with HIV (source: and that over a 1/4 of these people are unaware that they have it (

I am always reminded of the importance of this day due to the annual visit of one Emma Cole; a remarkable lady who has lived with HIV for over 20 years and has become synomyous with national and global campaigns (check out:

Luckily as a geographer it is part of the curriculum and some of the most interesting and important lessons i have taught over the past 6 years have been on this topic. Here are a few facts about HIV in the UK:
  • Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
  • You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
  • HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
  • Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
  • You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
  • There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV
Today the Guardian DataBlog - one of my favourite websites - has mapped 20years of HIV data; see the blurb below and then click the link:

The UNAIDS data shows that since 1999, the year in which it is thought the HIV epidemic peaked globally, the number of new infections has fallen by 19%. We've mapped the prevalence of adults with HIV over the past 20 years, so you can see the patterns of the change throughout the world and that dispite the overall improvement some regions have got worse. The figures come from this UNAIDS spreadsheet and show the prevalence of HIV in adults aged 15 to 49, as a percentage of the population. Let us know what you think.

Also, Hans Rosling has produced and presented on an interesting visual data display using his gapminder resources - the results and issues raised are fascinating, see below:

One of the biggest challenges, no matter where an individual lives, is the perception and stigma that is often associated with HIV and the issues surrounding safe sex ( Although in the UK we are lucky to have sex education as part of our compulsory core curriculum in all secondary (and primary) educational estblishments, in some areas of the world the message of safe sex is not discussed and simply swept under the carpet.  In one of the world's emerging economies and potential superpowers, rates of HIV in certain Indian states are skyrocketing. The link belows shows a timeless clip, indicating how TV advertising and mobile phones are being used to combat the stigma and taboo subject of discussing and practising safe sex, ultimately to reduce levels of HIV infection: