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“The Right to Health”

HIV/AIDS is one of the pandemic diseases in history which made people lose those they love and respect and slowed down development of states.

It has destroyed individual’s life and nation’s development. Millions of the working force of the world population died because of AIDS and this has had impact on the social and economic aspects of the world society. December 1st was designated as the world AIDS day in 1988 to raise the awareness of people about AIDS, to give love and respect to those who live with the virus and to remember those who died because of HIV/AIDS.

In a healthy human body, white blood cells act as body soldiers. The CD4 cells are one type of white blood cells, whose existence in full amount can protect a body from any kind of diseases. The HIV virus has the power to attack the CD4 and lower its amount in a body, lowering the immunity of a body in a very short period of time which eventually leads to complete lack of immunity. HIV virus takes a long time to turn to AIDS if the infected person takes care of him/herself by taking ARV (anti retro viral therapy) medicines properly. Otherwise the virus can develop to AIDs in a very short period of time, leaving no time for the patient to be cured.

HIV/AIDS is a communicable disease and can be transmitted from one person to another through sexual intercourse, from mother to an embryo during pregnancy and by using unsterilized sharp materials. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has been making efforts to control all communicable diseases, especially AIDS, through awareness campaigns. That is why the infection rate is decreasing. In Eritrea this year’s World AIDs Day will be celebrated in the port city of Massawa on December 1st 2017 under the theme of “the Right to Health”.

As part of the on-going efforts to control HIV/AIDS the MoH has planned to achieve 4 goals until 2021. The first goal is, to decrease the infection of HIV/ AIDS by 50%, the second is to decrease death by HIV/AIDS by 75%, the third to increase the distribution of ARV by more than 90% and the fourth to decrease the transfer of HIV/AIDS from mother to child by 90%.

To achieve these, there are three goals which are needed to be addressed by MoH by 2020. First, to increase the awareness of the people regarding HIV/ AIDS and stimulate those who live with HIV virus to know their conditions by taking a diagnosis by 90%, second to increase the intake of the ARV medicine by 90% and third to increase the decrease of HIV virus in their blood on those who start their medicine by 90%.

As the WHO reports show the infection of HIV/AIDs has been decreasing gradually in the past few years. In 2000, 3.2 million of the world population was infected by the virus. In 2005, 2.5 million people were infected while in 2010, 2.2 million were infected. in 2015, it reached 2.1 million and in 2016, it went down to 1 million. By 2020 the infection rate is expected to be less than 500,000 and in 2030 the infection rate is projected to be 200,000. The global death rate due to HIV virus in 2005 was 2 million. In 2010, 1.5 million people died and in 2015 1.1 million died, reaching 1 million people in 2016. The death rate is expected to drop further. It is projected to be 500,000 by 2020 and 400,000 by 2030.

Regarding the medicine intake, in 2000, 770,000 HIV patients in the world were taking ARV. In 2005 the number went up to 2.2 million and in 2010, 7.5 were taking ARV. By mid-2016, 18.2 million were taking ARV. In 2020 the amount of ARV distribution is expected to increase, allowing more patients to have access. Accordingly, ARV intake is expected to rise to 30 million by 2020 and 33 million by 2030.
Activities to control HIV/ AIDS are ongoing and wide. This explains why the current prevalence of HIV/Aids remains lower than that of other countries on the African continent.

The program that helped control the spread of AIDs include raising awareness about the virus and the disease, encouraging voluntary testing in one of the free testing centers in the country. encouraging pregnant women to be tested, and encouraging patients to take their medicine without interruption. The MoH also keeps in touch with those who are believed to be exposed to the virus such as sex workers and others. Whatever expense it may entail, the government and MoH are working to achieve success towards ensuring people’s health since a healthy society is fundamental for a healthy nation. Taking this into consideration all hospitals give HIV testing services along with the 225 stand-alone VCT’s (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) centers in Eritrea.

As the graph from the Ministry of Health shows the number of people who attend the VCTs increased in 2016; however the number varies from one year to the other. In addition, as the graph shows, the infection rate was at 0.8% and today at 0.95%. This result can be a reflection of people’s decreased fear of the disease and perhaps weakened awareness campaigns.

Along with this the rate of HIV positive in pregnant women in the six Zobas is as follows in Maekel region 1.22% were positive out of 1225, in Debub 1.10% out of 910, 0.00 in Anseba 0% out of 695, in Gash Barka 0.74% out of 1354, in Northern Red Sea 0.99% out of 608 and Southern Red Sea 0.47% out of 212. What is so clear is the positive rate is high in urban areas with 1.13% out of 3455 infected people whereas in rural settings it is 0.19% out of 1555. The rate in urban areas is higher than the national average of 0.95%. Globally most of those living with HIV 95 %, live in developing nations.

Director of Communicable Diseases Control Division at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Araya Brhane said that the government, MoH, and the people of Eritrea have been fighting against HIV/ AIDS and are getting remarkable results. However, the trio have a long way to go in bringing the HIV/Aids prevalence to zero. In addition to this, he said that even though HIV/AIDS is decreasing for both sexes and different age groups, there is a need to work with devotion on those who are jobless because they may be tempted to work as prostitutes and this may increase the infection rate of HIV/AIDS. He also added that rape is an issue of a high concern. That is why the concerned bodies of health care in Eritrea continue to provide a Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) effective within 72 hours after the offence.

Dr. Araya finally recommended that, every person has to know his/her health status by taking the diagnosis because testing does not kill people, and those who are infected with HIV/ AIDS need to take the disease as a normal disease and constantly take their medicines because they can gain back their CD4 and become healthy again as the medicine plays an Important role in decreasing the amount of the virus in the blood.

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