World Aids Day is a chance to do two things: take action and reflect. First and foremost it's got to be a spur to take action, as there are still far too many people who aren't educated about HIV and AIDS and who don't get tested. Over 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV, but a quarter do not know they have it - that is 25,000 people who are not benefiting from treatment and are increasing the risk of passing the virus on. This means up to 600 people a year could be dying from a preventable, treatable condition.
People need to know that diagnosed early, the outlook for most people with HIV in the UK today is a good one, thanks to the availability of effective treatment and the excellent care provided by the NHS. Above all people need to know that it's never been quicker or simpler to get tested. In fact to demonstrate just how quick it is, this year the sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street is attempting to set a new world record for the number of people tested in one day - last year they tested 467 people, this year they're determined to beat it.
That's what World Aids Day is about: taking practical action. But it's a chance to reflect, too, on the huge strides that have already been made. Thirty years ago the friends of Terrence Higgins started a trust that has benefitted countless people. Two other bodies celebrate their 25th birthday this year - the National Aids Trust and Food Chain - and together these organisations and their dedicated teams have done so much to challenge prejudice, educate people and befriend those who are ill. Huge strides have been made abroad, too. Globally there were more than half a million fewer deaths in 2011 than in 2005 - and British campaigning efforts have played an important part in that change.
So to everyone reading this - let's use World Aids Day to spread the message about education, testing and early diagnosis. And to everyone who has been involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS for decades now - you should feel proud of what you've done.
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