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Today is World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about this world-wide problem. Today I'm going to give you a few stats about HIV/AIDS and let you know how you can help yourself and others.
First, just to let you know, HIV is a virus that attacks one's immune system. A person with HIV is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off diseases that would normally not be a problem for them. HIV can be passed through infected blood, semen or breast milk. The World AIDS Day website lists the three most common ways to pass HIV to someone else are:
- Sex without a condom with someone living with HIV
- Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
- From an HIV-positive mother (to her child) during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding (but with effective treatment and care the risk of transmission can be greatly reduced)
- 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide
- 31.3 million adults
- 15.7 million women
- 2.1 million children under 15
Clearly this is a problem that doesn't stop at national borders, and implicates every single person in the world. So what can we do?
Individually, we can get tested for STDs/HIV by doctors or at a special clinic. Being aware of your own state of health is the first step. The second step is to protect your health by using condoms for vaginal or anal sex. You can also go one step further by using condoms or dental dams to create a barrier during oral sex.
Collectively, we can support organizations such as amFAR that are dedicated to HIV/AIDS research and prevention. amFAR has been around for 25 years, and here is just a taste of the great work they've been doing (click here for the full list):
- Funded early studies that were critical to the development of protease inhibitors, the powerful drugs that revolutionized the treatment of HIV/AIDS and contributed to a drastic reduction in AIDS-related deaths.
- Pioneered research that ultimately led to the use of antiretroviral drugs to block mother-to-infant HIV transmission. As a result, mother-to-child transmission has been all but eliminated in the industrialized world.
- Supported studies of syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in several cities around the U.S. showing that these programs reduce HIV transmission by 50 percent or more among participating injection drug users, without increasing illegal drug use.
- Funded research leading to the first three-dimensional images of HIV both before and while it makes initial contact with susceptible cells, information that could be used to design new vaccine and drug treatment candidates.
- Established Asia’s first HIV/AIDS observational database to monitor disease course and treatment outcomes, generating information that will help improve treatment standards for patients across the continent.
- Played a key role in securing passage of federal legislation, including: the Hope Act of 1988, the first comprehensive federal AIDS legislation; the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990, which provides emergency relief to hard-hit states and local communities and remains a primary source of federal funding for HIV/AIDS services and care; the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which protects people with HIV and AIDS; and the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, which strengthened NIH’s Office of AIDS Research.
- Helped convince Congress to establish the first AIDS drug assistance program to help low-income Americans cover the high cost of HIV/AIDS medications.
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