World AIDS Day 2008 Events

People living with HIV/AIDS and the physicians caring for them have a lot to celebrate Dec. 1, 2008. This World AIDS Day is the 20th anniversary of the event, first staged by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1988. Living with HIV in 2008 is worlds apart from the death sentence associated with an HIV diagnosis at the beginning of the pandemic in 1981.

In the early days of the pandemic, those infected faced a lack of treatment options, stigmatism, fear and isolation. It was six years before the first anti-HIV drug was approved by the FDA in 1987.

In an age where people are living longer with HIV/AIDS, the critical factors are early recognition and testing, early treatment and medication adherence. If these three factors are met, patients can live happy, full, and long lives as HIV-positive.

Testing for HIV has not been routine in medical practice, and more than 20 percent of Americans are unaware of their status. Since Fall 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been pushing to make HIV testing a routine part of medical visits. It is well recognized that the vast majority of people are asymptomatic for many years despite their infection.

Importance of Early Treatment

Early treatment is beneficial for many reasons. People living with HIV/AIDS live healthier, longer lives while on anti-retroviral therapy. HIV treatment lowers the viral load, which also lowers the chances of infecting others. Treating those infected earlier preserves their health and rather than waiting until they show evidence of the disease clinically. Recently, the guidelines were updated to start treatment earlier to promote these added health benefits.

In 2008, the landscape of the HIV/AIDS pandemic has a host of new issues. Physicians managing the disease currently struggle with getting patients to adhere to their medication. If medication schedules are not properly maintained, resistance and virus replication can occur. These factors may cause a patient to progress from undetectable HIV levels in the blood to full-blown AIDS.

There are now over 20 HIV medications available, allowing for more treatment options and better management of side effects. Programs, such as Ryan White, provide access to treatment for those with limited or no health insurance. Research opportunities allow earlier access to medications and additional care for patients. Consistent treatment and care are important in managing HIV/AIDS and lead to longer, healthier lives.

World AIDS Day 2008 Local Events

The World AIDS Campaign supports, strengthens and connects campaigns that hold leaders accountable for their promises on HIV and AIDS. “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise” is the slogan for the World AIDS Campaign from 2005-2010. USF has several events scheduled in support of World AIDS Day:

Monday, Dec. 1

World AIDS Day Commemoration – Who is Fighting the Pandemic in Tampa?

1 to 3pm, USF Marshall Center, Room 2709.
Learn about research at USF to develop a new way to reduce the rate of HIV in women around the world. View In Women’s Hands and hear an update on international efforts to curb the spread of HIV. Refreshments will be served.

World AIDS Day Remembrance Ceremony

5pm, USF Marshall Center Ballroom

Tuesday, Dec. 2

United States Healthcare Through the Lens of Hillsborough County

1 to 5 p.m., USF Marshall Center, Room 2708
Have your voice heard at an interactive, student-run conference that will help to educate the USF community on current U.S. health policy themes, and how these themes prevail in our county. Refreshments will be served.

Friday, Dec. 5

REACH Out Tampa Bay. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

Hillsborough County Health Department. 1105 E. Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, Florida 33602

This all-day event is open to the public. Free HIV testing, a health fair in the main lobby, and public talks throughout the day. The educational programs from 11am to 1pm, sponsored by USF, will include talks from Dr. Charurut Somboonwit, Dr. Beata Casanas, Tony Stull, RN, and Michael Ruppal of the AIDS Institute. Come learn about efforts to educate the community about HIV/AIDS, the importance of the clinical research being conducted at the USF HIV Clinical Research Unit and the care being provided at the Specialty Care Center.

For more information on events in your area and for HIV/AIDS treatment resources, visit the following sites:

World AIDS Day site
USF HIV Clinical Research Unit
Hillsborough County Health Department

If you are an HIV provider and require consultation or technical assistance with complex HIV care issues, the Florida/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center is available to assist in the educational needs for HIV providers.

– Story by Julian Corvin, Division of Infectious Disease, Angela Lloyd, USF HIV Clinical Research Unit and Dr. Jose Montero, Division of Infectious Disease