A message from Dr. Asclepius
Today is World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body's immune system — the body's defense against diseases.
HIV is transmitted through body fluids in very specific ways:
- During sexual
contact: When you have anal, oral, or vaginal sex with a partner, you will
usually have contact with your partner’s body fluids. If your partner has
HIV, those body fluids can deliver the virus into your bloodstream through
microscopic breaks or rips in the delicate linings of your vagina, vulva,
penis, rectum, or mouth. Rips in these areas are very common and mostly
unnoticeable. HIV can also enter through open sores, like those caused by herpes or syphilis,
if infected body fluids get in them.
You need to know that it’s much easier to get HIV (or to give it to someone else), if you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD). For more information, see CDC's The Role Of STD Detection And Treatment In HIV Prevention.
- During pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding: Babies have constant contact with their mother’s body fluids-including amniotic fluid and blood-throughout pregnancy and childbirth. After birth, infants can get HIV from drinking infected breast milk.
- As a result of injection drug use: Injecting drugs puts you in contact with blood-your own and others, if you share needles and “works”. Needles or drugs that are contaminated with HIV-infected blood can deliver the virus directly into your body.
- As a result of occupational exposure: Healthcare workers have the greatest risk for this type of HIV transmission. If you work in a healthcare setting, you can come into contact with infected blood or other fluids through needle sticks or cuts. A few healthcare workers have been infected when body fluids splashed into their eyes, mouth, or into an open sore or cut.
- As a result of a blood transfusion with infected blood or an organ transplant from an infected donor: Screening requirements make both of these forms of HIV transmission very rare in the United States.
There is currently no vaccine that will prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it. Scientists are continuing to create and test HIV vaccines—in the lab, in animals, and even in human subjects. These vaccine trials help researchers to learn whether a vaccine will work and if it can be safely given to people.
In 2009, researchers published findings from an HIV vaccine trial in Thailand. That trial involved more than 16,000 adults and showed that a combination vaccine was safe and lowered the rate of HIV infection by 31.2%. Scientists are now trying to take what they learned from the Thai trial and make a better vaccine with greater and more definite effectiveness. For more information on the Thailand vaccine trial, see the U.S. Military HIV Research Program.