World AIDs Day

Asclepius: God of Medicine
During the height of the AIDS epidemic, we lost millions of people on a global level.
Today, Dec. 1, 2015, marks World Aids Day — a time for us to reflect on those that we have lost, those who are thriving and the advances our society has made when it comes to the prevention and treatment of HIV.  World AIDS Day, a day started in 1988 to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and work to end the epidemic.

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. HIV can progress into AIDS, the final state of the infection when the body is unable to fight disease or infection.

Here are some facts about where things stand today:

An estimated 34 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide. In the USA, an estimated 1.2 million people live with HIV and one out of every seven are not aware they have the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the most people living with HIV in the world and 70% of all new HIV infections occur there. In 2013, there were an estimated 24.7 million cases in the region, according to the World Health Organization.

In the USA, the number of new HIV infections reported have decreased from approximately 130,000 a year to 50,000 a year since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, according to the CDC.

There is no cure for HIV, but antiretroviral drugs (ART) have helped people live longer with the virus. In 2013, 12.9 million people received the drug therapy, according to the World Health Organization.

From 2005 to 2013, AIDS-related deaths globally have decreased by almost 40% across age groups. However, deaths for children ages 10 to 19 have not decreased, according to UNICEF.

In the USA, HIV primarily occurs in urban areas with a population of 500,000 people or more. Hardest hit areas in 2012 included Atlanta, Miami, Baton Rouge, La., New Orleans, Memphis and Baltimore, according to the CDC.

The group most affected by HIV in the USA remains gay or bisexual men. Male-to-male sex accounted for 63% of new HIV infections in 2010, according to the CDC. The CDC reports that African Americans are disproportionately affected. In 2010, they made up 14% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44% of new HIV infections. The culprits are stigma of HIV in black communities, access to the clinics, men on the downlow not disclose their status, and/or no or little condoms in prison system. 

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is now fully preventable with the help of a handy little blue pill. This pill is called PrEP. PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a drug called Truvada that originally received approved to fight HIV in people already infected over a decade ago. If you are not living with HIV, this little pill--when taken daily--prevents infection from occurring even when an exposure occurs. A pill, a day, keeps the HIV away. ***Use truvada or off brand with a condom to maximize your protection***

We still have a lot of work left to do in order to eradicate AIDS and HIV stigma is still alive and well, making it crucial that we honor the lives and work of those who died due to the disease.


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