Why AIDS Awareness Matters

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Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H. Every year in December, the global community unites to recognize World AIDS Day on December 1st and AIDS Awareness Month. During this time, people around the world join together to raise awareness of the ongoing fight against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), support people living with HIV, and remember those we have lost.

Human immunodeficiency virus attacks the body’s immune system. If untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. Unlike other viruses, our bodies can’t get rid of HIV completely, however, with treatment it can be effectively controlled.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2015, an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States had HIV and 1 in 7, or about 15%, were not aware they had been infected. HIV also remains a major global health problem.  As of 2017, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with the virus, and 940,000 people died from AIDS-related illness.

When looking at HIV diagnoses by race and ethnicity in the US, data indicates that African Americans are the most affected, at 43% of all US cases, followed by Hispanics/Latinos and Whites at 26%, and Asians at 2%. In addition, HIV is largely an urban disease, with most cases occurring in metropolitan areas with 500,000 or more people. The CDC also states that the Northeast has the highest rate of people living with HIV, when population size is taken into account.

When learning about HIV/AIDS, it’s also important to educate and dispel myths about the virus. You cannot get HIV from:

  • Kissing or hugging
  • Sharing food
  • Insect bites
  • Toilet seats
  • Sneezes and coughs
  • Blood, sweat, tears, urine or feces of someone who has HIV unless in contact with broken skin

Be sure to talk to your doctor or medical provider to learn more about HIV/AIDS and the importance of getting tested.

World AIDS Day and AIDS Awareness Month are an important opportunity for us all to stand in solidarity with the millions of people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. And you can show your support by wearing an HIV awareness red ribbon. When we raise awareness, we remind the public and government that our fight against HIV is not over.  There is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

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