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5 things Rihanna just learned about HIV (that you might not know)

Submitted by unaidsadmin on Sat, 2016-12-03 12:53 - 0 Comments










On World AIDS Day 2016 Rihanna accepted Prince Harry’s invitation to get a rapid HIV test from Heroes Square in Bridgetown, Barbados.

"That was not bad," Rihanna said as Prince Harry looked on from the bench next to her.

The Bajan songstress later confessed that she hadn’t known it was possible to learn your HIV status in under 20 minutes and with just a drop of blood.

“I couldn’t believe it and I can’t believe I didn’t know,” she said. “So many people don’t know... how easy it is to get tested and how quick you get your results back and how discreet it could be. Even if you are positive there’s so much that can be done and the sooner, the better. I don’t think people are aware of how much progress has been made.”

She’s right. There have been huge strides with respect to our understanding of HIV and our approaches to diagnosis and treatment. There is a new body of information that people now need to grasp... even many people who are fairly well informed. Updating the Caribbean’s HIV knowledge is critical to the global Fast Track agenda now underway to end AIDS by 2030. With that in mind, here are five NEW things to know about HIV.


1. HIV home-testing just got a big green light

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to help increase the number of people living with HIV who know their status. According to the WHO HIV self-testing means people can use saliva or finger-pricks to discover their status in any private and convenient setting. Results are ready within 20 minutes. Those with positive results are advised to seek tests at health clinics to confirm the results. WHO recommends that people receive information and links to counselling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services. HIV self-testing kits are already available in pharmacies in several Caribbean countries.

2. Treatment as prevention

Early HIV testing and treatment are key to the mission to end AIDS. We now know that the sooner a person living with HIV finds out their status and starts antiretroviral treatment, the sooner the levels of the virus in their blood can be reduced to undetectable levels. HIV still lives in the body and treatment must be continued to maintain the low levels. But this means that there is not enough of the virus in the patient’s body fluids to transmit to their sexual partner or future child. You may hear phrases like “test and treat”, “test and start” or “test and offer”. This refers to the new worldwide movement to get people on treatment (or at least to offer them the option) as soon as they are diagnosed rather than waiting for their immunity to drop below a particular level. Several Caribbean governments are now working with international partners to make the transition.  

3. There’s a new way to prevent HIV

Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP can prevent a person from contracting HIV even if they are exposed. It involves taking an antiretroviral medicine every day. The approved drug is Truvada.  This is a costly prevention option but it offers us one more way to help reduce infections.   The world’s leaders have agreed to reach at least three million people at higher risk of HIV infection with these preventative drugs. Many Governments in our region have come onboard.

4. We can end mother-to-child HIV transmission once and for all

We’ve known for some time how to prevent babies from being born with HIV. Through the widespread expansion of antiretroviral treatment for mothers living with HIV, there have been dramatic declines in HIV transmission to children over the last decade. Cuba led the world by becoming the first country to be validated last year as having eliminated this form of HIV transmission. The validation process is underway now in 12 Caribbean countries and territories including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The elimination of new HIV infections among children is a realistic and urgent goal. We can all play a part by supporting women to start antenatal care early, get tested, show up for all follow-up appointments and, if necessary, stay on treatment and avoid breastfeeding.

5. One a day

While we are still working on developing a cure and a vaccine for HIV, our tools for treating the virus are becoming better and better. Just 15 years ago people had to take several drugs to stay alive. Now there are pills that offer a combination of HIV drugs. This allows many people to take their treatment in one pill, once a day.  Nobody is promising that living with HIV is easy but it’s not nearly as difficult as it was before. Know your status! Start treatment! Stay on treatment!

Connect with us on Twitter: @UNAIDSCaribbean


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About the Author

unaidsadmin's picture

The UNAIDS team offers the Caribbean the broad expertise of cosponsors and other UN organisations in areas such as program development and management, women and child health, education, legal networking, community care initiatives and resource mobilisation. The goal is an expanded response to HIV in the region with the world’s second highest HIV prevalence.