Clean drinking water and appropriate sanitation and hygiene are especially important to people living with HIV and AIDS. In situations with inadequate WASH, people living with HIV and AIDS suffer disproportionately from the adverse effects of poor WASH, primarily because of their suppressed immune system.
We can celebrate that, globally, great progress has been made to slow the spread of HIV and AIDS. AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42% from the peak in 2005, and new HIV infections have declined by 35% since 2000. This is good news, but there are still more than 35 million people worldwide living with HIV, with only about half of these people accessing antiretroviral therapy. We cannot stop until we get to zero.
How WASH protects people living with HIV
These are just a few ways that WASH services and practices help protect people living with HIV.
- Up to 100% of people living with HIV in the developing world suffer from diarrhoeal disease, often caused by poor sanitation.
- Besides being at greater risk of diarrhoeal disease, people living with HIV generally suffer from it more frequently, more severely, and with a greater likelihood of dying from it.
- Diarrhoea can lead to an increased viral load and thus increase the progression of the disease.
- People living with HIV living in unhygienic conditions can suffer from enteropathy, which hinders the propers absorption of antiretroviral medicines and makes them less effective.
- People living with HIV need more water each day than average -- not only for drinking but for washing soiled sheets and clothes and sterilizing contaminated areas.
How WASH can help prevent the spread of HIV
These are just a few ways that WASH services and practices help prevent the spread of HIV.
- Safe WASH practices during delivery can help prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child
- Safe handling of faeces and other bodily fluids, plus proper handwashing, can prevent the spread of HIV to caregivers