This week is National HIV Testing Week, leading up to World AIDS Day 2013 on 1st December. The question is, how many of you were aware of this - and what can we do to enhance that awareness? For too long, educational messages about HIV/AIDS, and about the way it is transmitted and prevented, have not been heard.
New data from UNAIDS, the UN's main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, reveals that an estimated 3.6 million people aged 50 and older are living with HIV. For the first time since the start of the HIV epidemic, 10% of the adult population living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries is aged 50 or older.
Once back in England I met a great guy on a night out. On our second date he disclosed that he was HIV positive... This person educated me. I learned the science behind HIV and this knowledge freed me from the fear that I'd harboured before. More importantly for me though was the openness: when it was relevant, he shared his status, and with his consent, I did the same. What began as cathartic became educational. It was amazing how little people knew!
As we approach World AIDS Day it is vital to highlight that people who live with HIV and AIDS in the developing world need to receive more than just medicine. They need nutritious food as well. We know that 97 per cent of the 7,000 people newly infected with HIV everyday live in the world's most undernourished countries underlining the link between hunger and the disease.
Looking ahead to another World AIDS Day this Sunday - the 26th such occasion since the annual solidarity day was introduced - it seems to me that there is an urgent need to prioritise and involve young people in efforts to tackle the global HIV epidemic, and in particular those from marginalised groups who are most at risk.
I'm 42 now and my attitude towards sex has changed and I'm confident in my sexuality. I'm also fully aware of the 'risks', and they are risks. I don't take my being HIV-negative for granted but I also don't allow a fear of HIV to stop me doing what I want to do. After twenty years I've finally realised that a penis isn't a murder weapon.
On 23 September, the UK Government announced its contribution to the Global Fund and we got a step closer to the day when no child dies from Aids, TB or malaria. The UK has pledged £1billion over the next three years - providing the overall target of $15billion is met from other governments and donors.
People around the world know that education is the key to a better life. Voters from over 190 countries who responded to the United Nations My World survey said providing a good education for all was the best way to build a better world. There's a huge gap between that goal and reality, however: 250million children are still being denied a chance to learn the basics.
How would you react if someone told you they were HIV positive? Would you treat them the same as any other person? Would you still hug them without thinking twice? Would you take a sip from their glass of Coke? It sounds harsh, but unfortunately a negative stigma has developed around HIV that causes many people to react with fear towards anyone who tests positive.