“World AIDS Day” is observed on December 1st every year around the globe. Initiated by the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the day is dedicated to generating awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. This is an opportunity to extend support to those people living with HIV, improve understanding of HIV as a global, public health problem and commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. According to reports from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, an estimated 40 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since 1981 and an estimated 37 million people are living with HIV – making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite considerable improvements in treatment, the AIDS epidemic still claims around 2 million lives each year, of which more than 250,000 are children. AIDS – Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – is a chronic condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus that directly damages the immune system. HIV interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection and disease. Regarded as a sexually transmitted infection STI, HIV transmits through the bodily fluids (including blood, semen, breast milk and vaginal and rectal fluids) of an infected person. People with this condition do not experience any specific symptoms; the best way to diagnose the HIV is to get tested. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can dramatically slow the progression of the condition to a great extent. Administering antiretroviral therapy, (a combination of daily medications) can help stop the reproduction of virus and keep HIV infection from progressing to AIDS. Without administering the correct medication, it may take years before HIV weakens the immune system to the specific point that a person gets AIDS. Accurate documentation of AIDS disease is vital to ensure proper patient care and physician reimbursement; specialists and physicians treating this condition can consider utilizing medical billing and coding services.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity to show solidarity towards people living with HIV worldwide. On December 1, 2020, the UNAIDS will join hands in paying tribute to all those working to provide HIV services, and in calling on global leaders and citizens to rally for “global solidarity” to maintain essential HIV services during COVID-19 and beyond. The one-day event is a call to focus on vulnerable groups who are already at risk and expand coverage to children and adolescents. With 2020 being the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the campaign is a call for more protection and support to these health workers who have long been on the frontline of HIV service delivery. In most cases, the signs and symptoms associated with HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase and type of infection. Generally, people with HIV infection develop a flu-like illness within a month or two once the virus enters the body. Other related symptoms include – fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, rashes, headache, sore throat, painful mouth sores and swollen lymph glands.

Early identification of the HIV virus infection through timely testing is one of the best preventive steps. As per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in the age group of 13-64 years need to get tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine healthcare. People normally get tested for HIV only after becoming symptomatic and ill. Shame and embarrassment are the prime factors that discourage people from undergoing an HIV test and this may often lead to HIV treatment modalities being initiated slowly. As there are several tests to diagnose HIV, it is important for healthcare providers to correctly determine which particular test is suitable for each patient. Some of the common diagnosis tests include – antibody/antigen tests (check the blood for antibodies and antigens that depict results typically within 18–45 days after someone initially contracts HIV) and nucleic acid test (NAT which looks for the virus itself). If the main test results are positive, other additional tests will be recommended to check the progress of the infection and determine further treatment modalities. Treatment modalities for the condition need to be initiated soon after a diagnosis of HIV. Using a combination of daily medications will help improve the severity of symptoms and stop the virus from reproducing. This keeps the immune system strong enough to take measures against the disease. Physicians while treating HIV infected patients, must correctly document the symptoms, screening tests and other procedures using the right medical codes. Billing and coding services offered by medical billing companies can help physicians use the right medical codes. ICD-10 codes used for HIV include –

B20 – Human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] disease

  • HIV disease
  • AIDS
  • AIDS – related complex [ARC]
  • AIDS – related conditions
  • HIV infection, symptomatic

Z21 – Asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] infection status

  • HIV infection
  • HIV positive
  • HIV
  • Known HIV
  • HIV virus
  • HIV status
  • HIV test positive
  • HIV infection, asymptomatic

Z20.6 – Contact with and (suspected) exposure to human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]

Z11.4 – Encounter for screening for human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]

The theme for 2020 World AIDS Day (which will be marking its 32nd year) is – ““Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”. The theme focuses on the global commitment to deliver quality, people-centered HIV prevention and treatment services. It also speaks to strengthening the capacity and resilience of individuals, communities and health systems to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS prevention services in the midst of a global pandemic. While COVID-19 has created major new challenges, UNAIDS along with other partners remain committed to accelerating efforts to “End the HIV Epidemic”.

The idea of observing “World AIDS Day” was first developed in the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention in London, England. The initial objective behind the event was dual – to emphasize the significance, scope and impact of the epidemic, and to highlight national responsibilities regarding the provision of universal, accessible and equitable treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Within a span of 32 years, the scope of the campaign got bigger with the United Nations agencies, governments and civil societies joining hands to celebrate on specific, individual themes related to AIDS each year. Today, the campaign has developed and become one of the most widely recognized international health days that promote awareness about HIV/AIDS and provide access to treatment and prevention services.

People all over the world show their solidarity and support for “World AIDS Day” campaign by wearing red ribbon. A simple red ribbon is one of the most widely recognized symbols of HIV and AIDS and the people who live with these conditions. The symbol was presented by the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus in 1991. The red ribbon was originally intended to be worn as a badge, but is now used in a variety of ways. The symbol of the World AIDS Campaign comprises a sketched image of a red ribbon and the words “World Aids Campaign”. The words “World” and “Campaign” are in black and the word “AIDS” is in red. The ends of the ribbon merge into splashes of green, blue, purple and orange. The splashes of color can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and indicate the diversity of people living with HIV and AIDS. People can actively participate in this campaign by wearing HIV awareness red ribbon on the day. Other activities include – sharing messages about the campaign, donating to an AIDS charity and attending a candlelight vigil. Most major cities in the US and worldwide host candlelight vigils on “World AIDS Day” as a way of visually commemorating the lives of those people who have lost their lives to the disease and vowing to fight it in the future.

Take part in World AIDS Day observation on December 1. Call for an increased response to move toward “Ending the HIV Epidemic”.