People with red balloons standing as an HIV-ribbon

Okay I lured you in with the promise of a quiz (it’s at the bottom of the page, I promise!) but please just take a few minutes out of your day to read my blog first.

No matter where you live in the world, no one these days can afford to be ignorant about HIV.

Last week, the Guardian reported that an estimated 86,500 people are living with HIV in the UK, but a quarter of them do not know they are infected.

Earlier this year I travelled to South Africa, the country with the world’s largest number of people living with HIV. In this video, narrated by Annie Lennox, you can hear stories from some of the people I met.

One of the biggest things that really struck me during my visit was that it’s not only the person living with HIV who is affected, but also their families and communities. I met many orphans that the Red Cross is supporting and hearing their stories was truly heartbreaking.

But the good news is that the tide is turning with the global AIDS epidemic, the UN has reported that fewer people are becoming HIV infected and fewer people are dying. This news reflects the success of a massive international effort from governments and organisations to educate communities on the prevention of HIV, particularly around adopting safer sexual practices.

However, with 33.4 million people worldwide still living with the virus the challenge of combating HIV is far from over.

HIV is an emotive subject and many people are frightened to talk about it, let alone think about getting themselves tested.

The fact that there is roughly more than 21,600 people in the UK who do not even know they are infected with HIV worries me. Not only does this mean they are not getting the treatment they need but it also means they continue to put others at risk. It’s time we started talking more openly about this disease and by doing so tackling the fear.

Many young Red Cross volunteers in the UK are well aware that HIV is not just a problem for countries overseas. You can read their stories and find out how they are using creative ideas to raise awareness about the disease, and fight discrimination and stigma.

I’m sure there’s more we can all do to raise awareness about HIV but for starters how about taking the quiz below? Share it with your mates, put it on Facebook and be honest about how many answers you got correct!


1.    Where was the world’s first case of AIDS identified and in what year?
2.    What age group is most affected by HIV?
3.    What are the three ways HIV can be transmitted?
4.    What is the ABC approach to preventing the spread of AIDS?
5.    Is there a cure for HIV?


1.    The world’s first cases of AIDS were reported in the USA in 1981.*
2.    15-49 is the age group most affected by HIV.
3.    HIV can be transmitted through: unprotected sex, blood (particularly through transfusions or intravenous drug use) and from mother to baby (via pregnancy, labour or breast milk).
4.    The ABC approach to preventing the spread of AIDS stand for: Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom. However it’s a controversial approach – read more on AlertNet.
5.    There is no cure yet for HIV, but there are drug treatments (antiretroviral therapy) that have transformed the prognosis of people living with HIV, turning it into a chronic condition that can be managed. However, this of course is dependent on the person living with HIV being able to afford/access the treatment and maintain a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition.

Londaka is one of the 1.4 million children who have been orphaned by AIDS in South Africa. Read her story about keeping her memory of her mother alive.

*This previously stated the answer as being Uganda, which was incorrect.

Photo © Callum Bennetts – Maverick photo agency/BRC