What is HIV/AIDS?


First, a few facts about AIDS. AIDS is an incurable illness caused by the HIV virus. HIV stands for Human Immune Deficiency Virus, and is sometimes also called the AIDS virus. The virus breaks down the immune system. This makes the body more susceptible to all manner of infections and certain forms of cancer which it would otherwise be able to withstand.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This means that a person's immune system no longer functions as it should. This allows the tenacious virus to do its destructive work and break down the immune system.

How does HIV spread?

The HIV virus is passed on:

  • by unsafe sexual contact with a person who is seropositive;
  • by receiving infected blood;
  • by using contaminated injection needles;
  • from a seropositive mother to an unborn child.

Can HIV/AIDS be treated?

Since 1996 new drugs have been available which, in certain combinations, stop HIV from replicating itself in the body. Thanks to this, people with HIV can stay free of illness longer and thus live longer lives.

The AIDS epidemic seems to be stabilising

Thanks to all-out efforts to stop the virus, the AIDS epidemic seems to be stabilising, according to the UN organisation UNAIDS. Nevertheless, UNAIDS predicts that the epidemic will still affect many between 2002 and 2010. According to recent figures, there are more than 4.1 million new infections (over half of them in young people and children).

Problem in developing countries

HIV/AIDS is a particular problem in developing countries.

  • Poverty: Because of the poverty in developing countries, the consequences of HIV/AIDS are more serious than in the West. People's resistance is lower because they do not have enough to eat and because they lack clean water. As a result, it is easier for the HIV virus to make them ill.
  • Gender: Worldwide, 17.3 million women are infected with HIV; over 13.3 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that 59% of all those in this region who are HIV-positive are women.
  • Orphans/street children: Because adults die, many children in developing countries are left behind without parents. An estimated 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
  • Discrimination: People with HIV/AIDS are often discriminated. Many people do not want to mix with people who are infected, because they are afraid of becoming infected themselves. In some communities, people even act as if it is 'your own fault' if you become infected with HIV.

More info HIV/AIDS

  • Together for HIV and AIDS prevention, a toolkit for the sports community, IOC and UN AIDS, 2005 (pdf)
  • IOC policy on HIV/AIDS (pdf)
  • Determinants of the effectiveness of HIV prevention through sport, M. Temmerman, W. Delva. In: Y. vanden Auweele, C. Malcolm & B. Mulders (eds). Sport and development. (word)
  • The potentials of sport as a tool for a rights-based approach to HIV/AIDS, 2006, M. Bosmans, Ghent University. In: Y. vanden Auweele, C. Malcolm & B. Mulders (eds). Sport and development. (word)
  • Using sport to tackle AIDS, discussion paper UK Government (word)
  • Kicking AIDS out through movement games and sport activities, Resource book, Oscar Sichikolo Mwaanga, KICKING AIDS OUT Network (pdf)
  • Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS in practice, A toolkit with a collection of resources, checklists and examples, SDC (pdf)
  • Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS in Development and Humanitarian Programmes, ActionAid, Oxfam GB and Save the Children UK (pdf)
  • HIV/AIDS mainstreaming guide for VSO offices, VSO (pdf)
  • NGO Capacity analysis, a toolkit for assessing and building capacities for high quality responses to HIV/AIDS, Frontiers Prevention Project and International HIV/AIDS alliance (pdf)
  • Active HIV Awareness, a study into the meanings of sports as a medium of HIV awareness in a South African township, M. Waardenburg (word)
  • An ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work (pdf)
  • AIDS epidemic update, UN AIDS and WHO, 2006 (pdf)
  • See also links on HIV/AIDS.