World AIDS Day is the first of December! The latest U-N report says that world AIDS deaths and new HIV infections have dropped twenty-one percent since the peak of the AIDS pandemic.
It has been thirty years since the CDC, in their weekly report, first published the illness. Since that time, AIDS-related illnesses have killed more than thirty million people worldwide
A recent report this year says that about 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV every year, and that just over a million are currently infected in the U.S.
In New England, the number of HIV patients is measured in the thousands. In 2009, Connecticut had the most with just over 10,000 and Massachusetts was next with more than 9,500 HIV patients, back in 2009.
A common misconception is that only people who are gay or who use IV drugs can get AIDS. On one hand, it is true that most men do become HIV positive through sexual contact with other men or through injection drug use. But on the other hand, about 16% of men and 78% of women with HIV were infected through heterosexual contact.
Statistics about African-Americans and HIV can be alarming; there has been an astonishing rise in the number of young, gay, black men who are becoming infected. The CDC just announced that they are launching a new campaign, urging regular testing for black, gay and bisexual men.
On the positive side, there have been wonderful advancements in medicines used to treat HIV and AIDS. One of the problems is, however, that only 28% of Americans living with HIV have their infection under control. Not only does that affect their survival, but also increases the chance that they will pass the virus onto someone else. In addition, one in five U.S. adults infected with HIV doesn’t have knowledge of it.
Perhaps long-term survival of HIV positive people, like Magic Johnson, has created the misconception that it is not a major health problem for those who have it. Antiretroviral drugs are certainly extending the lives of many people who are HIV positive, but the drugs can be expensive and can have side effects. It is important to remember that there is still no cure for HIV and AIDS. Also, there are problems with drug-resistant strains out there that can certainly make treatment a challenge.
So, what are the best ways to protect yourself from getting HIV? The best way is to practice safe sex. Always use a condom during sexual activity, unless you are in a relationship with one partner who you know does not have HIV, or other sexual partners. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, you should be evaluated right away. In addition, people at risk should be routinely screened for HIV. Of course, do not do IV drugs. If you do, do NOT share needles, syringes, cotton, cocaine spoons or eyedropper with others.
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