1. The AIDS epidemic is not over.
Today, HIV/AIDS is rarely discussed in the media. While the swell of HIV/AIDS has slowed due to medical advancements and advocacy, there is still not a cure for AIDS and the epidemic is still a major focus among members of the global health community. There are still almost 37 million people living with HIV around the world.
2. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing.
Although the two acronyms are often used together to describe the disease, HIV is a virus that causes an infection and AIDS is the most advanced stage of infection. While you can become infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), you cannot become infected with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). As the virus deteriorates the immune system and you lose important T-cells, AIDS can develop. However, many patients with HIV today do not progress to the later stage of AIDS.
3. You cannot die of AIDS itself.
It is more accurate to state that you can die from AIDS-related illnesses, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. As the immune system becomes more suppressed, patients can often develop opportunistic infections or cancers that are deadly.
4. HIV can be transmitted through 6 fluids.
These six fluids of transmission are breast milk, blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, and rectal fluid. When AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, myths began to circulate causing people to believe that HIV could be spread through air or saliva exchange. However, we know that the above six fluids are the only ways for the virus to be transmitted from one person to another.
5. HIV does not only affect gay men — it can infect & affect anyone.
HIV can be spread through sexual contact and sharing needles to inject drugs, or through mother-to-child transmission. These actions are not limited to one social group or faction of society, although AIDS was widely thought to be a “gay” disease during the 1980s. HIV can infect anyone.
6. It costs $19 to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
As of 2014, about 2.6 million children were living with HIV in the world. An HIV+ mother can pass HIV on to her child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding — unless she and the baby receive adequate treatment to prevent transmission. This treatment, called PMTCT, can help to ensure that an AIDS-free generation is a reality.
7. Thailand, Armenia, and Belarus have all eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Two years ago, 700 children were born with HIV daily. Today, that number has been reduced to 400. As these countries have shown, it is entirely possible to have an AIDS-free generation simply through stopping mother-to-child transmission.
8. It’s easier than you think to get tested and know your status.
It is important to get tested at least once, or more often if you are at risk. Free testing can be found at health clinics like Planned Parenthood or at mobile clinics, but your family doctor can also conduct a blood test for HIV. If you are at risk, your doctor may recommend PrEP therapy.
9. Having HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence.
People often mistakenly believe that being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is certain death. However, people with HIV/AIDS are now able to live long and healthy lives due to regimens like antiretroviral therapy (ART), which prevents HIV from multiplying within the body. As of 2016, 18.2 million people living throughout the world were receiving ART therapy.
10. Fighting stigma is just as important as finding a cure.
There is an enormous stigma that still surrounds those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, which has led to discrimination in both public and private spheres. Although scientists are still searching for a cure, it is just as important that society knows the truth about what it’s like to live with HIV or AIDS. Advocates like Magic Johnson have done important work in spreading public awareness, but it is up to all of us to ensure that the stigma is eliminated.