World marks 40 years since AIDS pandemic as parallels drawn to Covid

Source: 1News

Comparisons are being drawn between Covid-19 and AIDS, as the world marks 40 years since the HIV virus emerged.

A Ministry of Health panel was established today to assess the evidence provided in exemption applications from qualified medical practitioners on behalf of patients.

Panic and paranoia set in when the mysterious illness first emerged among five young, gay men in Los Angeles in 1981.

Auckland man Michael Stevens, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 at the age of 27 remembers the stigma.

“People didn’t want to touch you, people didn’t want to use the same cutlery or crockery that you would use,” said Mr Stevens,

AIDS attacks the immune system, and in the 1980s it was considered a death sentence.

“I thought I would be dead within a couple of years, in fact one of the doctors told me I had two years to live,” said Mr Stevens.

Now he’s 60 years old and credits it to the advances in “game changing” antiviral medication.

“They saved my life and they’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives,” he said.

AIDS was the world’s last serious pandemic before Covid.

Tens of millions of people have been infected and it’s killed about 35 million people to date.

It’s origin has been traced back to central Africa in the 1920. That continent has had the highest death toll from the virus.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said AIDS had shaved a decade off life expectancy in Africa. While Covid-19 had cut life expectancy by 1-2 years in Europe, North America and some parts of Asia.

The go-to Covid expert also helped curb the spread of HIV, by setting up the needle exchange.

“And as a result over the 30 plus years we've kept very low HIV prevalence in injecting drug users,” said Professor Baker.

Decades on and in the middle of another public health crisis, the parallels between Covid and AIDS are stark,

“Gay men had to learn how to use condoms and now we have to use masks,” points out Michael Stevens.

He said there were similar “crazy arguments” around whether the virus was real.

“We also had a lot of people in the gay world going HIV doesn't cause AIDS or AIDS isn't real, it's a pharmaceutical trap,” said Mr Stevens.

HIV hasn’t been conquered, but Michael Stevens said “it’s not what it used to be.”

“You don’t need to be ashamed of the fact you’ve got HIV, it is simply a virus,” he said.