This World AIDS Day, raise awareness about AIDS and the global spread of HIV. Encourage your community to participate in the fight to end AIDS by educating themselves on this disease and the importance of getting tested for HIV.
1. Learn the Basics
AIDS and HIV aren’t the same thing.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Someone infected with HIV does not necessarily have AIDS – it can take years for HIV to develop into AIDS.
However, those who start HIV treatment early in their infection and stay on treatment can live healthy lives and may prevent the disease from progressing to AIDS, according to the Office of Women’s Health.
HIV is spread in different ways.
HIV is spread through contact with certain body fluids of an infected person. Such body fluids include blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk.
More specifically, in the U.S., HIV is most often spread by:
- Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV.
- Sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV.
HIV can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
HIV is not spread by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands. It is also not passed by the bites of mosquitoes, ticks or other blood-sucking insects.
2. Understand the Scope of the Health Threat
AIDS and HIV are big problems in the U.S.
AIDS and HIV are a global health threat – and the U.S. is greatly affected. Over 1.2 million Americans 13 years and older are living with HIV, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S., an estimated 60,300 youth (13-24 years) were living with HIV at the end of 2015. Of these, 51% were living with undiagnosed HIV.
35.4 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic (UNAIDS).
There is no cure for HIV.
The human body cannot get rid of HIV. Once you have HIV, you have it for life. Always practice safe sex and know your and your partner’s status.
3. Find Out Your Status
Not everyone shows symptoms when infected.
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. Even if you show no symptoms, if you are HIV-positive, HIV is damaging your immune system.
An AIDS diagnosis indicates serious damage to the immune system. Symptoms that may indicate that the HIV infection has advanced to AIDS include the following:
- Reoccurring fever
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness or weakness
- Rapid weight loss
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands
HIV tests are more reliable than they used to be.
Today’s HIV tests detect infection earlier. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care – those at higher risk for HIV should get tested more often.
Only 75% of HIV-positive people knew their status in 2017 (UNAIDS).
4. Know That There Is Hope
Treatments are improving.
Antiretroviral therapy is used to treat HIV infections. With this therapy, HIV has transformed from a nearly always fatal infection into a manageable chronic condition, according to AIDSinfo.
We are on the right track.
While there is still a long road ahead, there are fewer AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections than before.
UNAIDS reports that:
- AIDS-related deaths have decreased by over 51% since the peak in 2004.
Approximately 940,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide in 2017, compared to 1.9 million in 2004.
- New HIV infections have been reduced by 47% since the peak in 1996.
There were around 1.8 million new HIV infections in 2017, compared to 3.4 million in 1996.
Together, we can move forward and closer toward an AIDS-free future.
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