World AIDS Day

December 1, 2019

World AIDS Day 2019World AIDS Day has been designated on December 1st every year since 1988.  This day is honored internationally and dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS caused by the spread of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection.  It also is a day of remembrance for those who have died of the disease. The theme this year is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”.

What Is HIV?

HIV is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection.  This makes a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV.  This happens most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV), or through sharing injection drug equipment.

There is no effective cure for HIV, so, once you have HIV, you have it for life.  However, there is HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), that allows people with HIV to live long and healthy lives and prevent transmitting HIV to their sexual partners. There are also effective methods to prevent getting HIV through sex or drug use, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

What is AIDS?

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the late stage of HIV infection and happens when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus. In the U.S., most people with HIV do not develop AIDS because taking HIV medicine every day as prescribed stops the progression of the disease.

How do you know if you have HIV?

Testing for HIV is the only way to know for sure and is relatively simple. You can ask your health care practitioner for an HIV test.  Testing is also offered at many other places such as medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals. You can also use a home test kit which can be purchased at a pharmacy or online.

To find an HIV testing location near you, use the HIV Services Locator at https://locator.hiv.gov/ or https://gettested.cdc.gov/ (these locators also identify sites where care and treatment, as well as support services, can be obtained).

The “CDC estimates that more than 90% of all new infections could be prevented by proper testing and linking HIV positive persons to care.” (https://gettested.cdc.gov/content/what-national-hiv-testing-day)

References: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention www.CDC.gov and www.HIV.gov