What is World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day is held on the 1st 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, held for the first time in 1988.

Why is World AIDS Day important?

Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Today, 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. Despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.

World AIDS Day is important because 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.

 

How Is HIV Spread?

HIV is spread from an infected person to another person through direct contact with some of the body’s fluids. It is not spread easily. Only certain body fluids from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV:

  • Blood
  • Semen (cum)
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk

These body fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into your bloodstream (by a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes are the soft, moist areas just inside the openings to your body. They can be found inside the rectum, the vagina or the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get tested. You can get tested at your healthcare provider’s office, a clinic, and other locations. You can also get a HIV home test kit from your local pharmacy.

Ways HIV Is Transmitted

HIV is spread mainly by:

  • Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
    • Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (“bottoming”) is riskier than insertive anal sex (“topping”).
    • Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
    • Having multiple sex partners or having sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of HIV infection through sex.
  • Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (“works”) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.

Less commonly, HIV may be spread by:

  • Being born to an infected mother. HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
  • Being stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle or other sharp object. This is a risk mainly for health care workers.
  • Receiving blood transfusions, blood products, or organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV. This risk is extremely small because of rigorous testing of the blood supply and donated organs and tissues.
  • Eating food that has been pre-chewed by an HIV-infected person. The contamination occurs when infected blood from a caregiver’s mouth mixes with food while chewing, and is very rare.
  • Being bitten by a person with HIV. Each of the very small number of documented cases has involved severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood. There is no risk of transmission if the skin is not broken.
  • Oral sex—using the mouth to stimulate the penis, vagina, or anus (fellatio, cunnilingus, and rimming). Giving fellatio (mouth to penis oral sex) and having the person ejaculate (cum) in your mouth is riskier than other types of oral sex.
  • Contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and HIV-infected blood or blood-contaminated body fluids. These reports have also been extremely rare.
  • Deep, open-mouth kissing if the person with HIV has sores or bleeding gums and blood is exchanged. HIV is not spread through saliva. Transmission through kissing alone is extremely rare.

HIV is NOT spread by:

  • Air or water
  • Insects, including mosquitoes or ticks
  • Saliva, tears, or sweat
  • Casual contact, like shaking hands, hugging or sharing dishes/drinking glasses
  • Drinking fountains
  • Toilet seats

HIV is not spread through the air and it does not live long outside the human body.

People with HIV who are using antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently and who have achieved viral suppression (having the virus reduced to an undetectable level in the body) are very unlikely to transmit the virus to their uninfected partners. However, there is still some risk of transmission, so even with an undetectable viral load, people with HIV should continue to take steps to reduce HIV transmission.

If I Have HIV, Does That Mean I Have AIDS?

No. The terms “HIV” and “AIDS” can be confusing because both terms refer to the same disease. However, “HIV” refers to the virus itself, and “AIDS” refers to the late stage of HIV infection, when an HIV-infected person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. But today, most people who are HIV-positive do not progress to AIDS. That’s because if you have HIV and you take ART consistently, you can keep the level of HIV in your body low. This will help keep your body strong and healthy and reduce the likelihood that you will ever progress to AIDS. It will also help lower your risk of transmitting HIV to others.

 

What should I do on World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day is an opportunity to show support to and solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon is one simple way to do this. We cannot afford to wait to take action. We have to talk openly about HIV and AIDS and make sure that everyone understands the danger of unprotected sex, and the responsibility they have to protect themselves and their partners. The silence and stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS must be broken and replaced by openness, good communication and compassion.

Watch the below video to get more detailed insight on HIV and AIDS.

Article Sourced from WorldAidsDay.org and AIDS.gov.
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