December 1 marks World AIDS Day, a time when people are reminded to join the fight against acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), support those living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and to remember those who have died from the disease. Although HIV/AIDS is an important topic and world health concern all year, World AIDS Day can be a special time for education and motivation.
The facts on AIDS
Stats and facts
In June 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published information that estimates 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV and nearly one in five of those are not aware they are infected. The CDC notes that new infections have dropped more than two-thirds since the height of the epidemic, but it estimates that 50,000 Americans become newly infected by HIV each year and about 18,000 people with AIDS die annually.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The virus weakens a person’s ability to fight infections and cancer. Both men and women can spread HIV, and it is passed from person to person through body fluids like blood, semen, fluids from the vagina or breast milk. Pregnant women can also pass the virus on to an unborn baby.
Having HIV does not always mean that you have AIDS. It can take many years for people with the virus to develop AIDS. HIV and AIDS cannot be cured, although treatment advancements have come a long way since the 1990s. Today, many people with AIDS can greatly benefit from medical treatments, helping them to live full lives. Keep in mind that without medical treatment, HIV still leads to AIDS and early death.
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HIV and AIDS Prevention
Prevention is key when it comes to HIV. That means you play an important role in your own good health. Minimize your risk by always protecting yourself: Use latex condoms for any type of sex (don’t use condoms made with animal products); use water-based lubricants (oil-based lubricants can weaken condoms); and never share needles to take drugs.
Testing is critical to help reduce new infections. The CDC recommends that all adolescents and adults get tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of medical care and that that gay and bisexual men and others at high risk get tested at least once a year.
If you know your HIV status, you can take appropriate measures to protect yourself and your partner.
World AIDS Day comes around once a year, but your health is important each and every day. Get inspired by the activities of the day to help educate yourself and others about HIV and AIDS.