The Real Deal with HIV and AIDS

Learn about it everyday and not just every first of December. (Photo Credit: Allhiphop)
Learn about it everyday and not just every first of December. (Photo Credit: Allhiphop)

Last December 1 was World’s AIDS Day and though you’ve probably seen the ubiquitous red ribbon, are you really aware of what HIV is and how it is spread and managed? Or are you one of those who cringe and get judgemental about it? The medical technology may get too advanced, but some of us still get wrapped up in that old-school stigma that comes along upon hearing the words HIV and AIDS.

It’s time to live in the new world, because whether we like it or not HIV is here tostay.The spread of HIV has affected millions of people worldwide,with an estimate of33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV (by the WOrld Health Organization), with 2.7 million new HIV infections pe

r year and 2.0 million deaths due to AIDS. Sadly, a cure has not yet been found, but HIV infection can be managed well.

Whether we are infected or not, we owe it to ourselves to keep an open mind about HIV and AIDS. Know the facts first and weigh them well before jumping to conclusions.

It’s time to debunk those HIV/AIDS misconceptions like:

HIV and AIDS are  one and the same thing.

HIV stands for  human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Not all HIV-infected individuals have AIDS, as the virus can remain latent for many years. The stage of HIV infection with no symptoms can lasts an average of eight to 10 years. The virus alters the immune system, making people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases. This susceptibility worsens as the infection progresses. The stage of symptomatic infection, in which the body’s immune system has been suppressed is called the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The symptoms are caused by the complications of AIDS, which include one or more unusual infections or cancers, severe loss of weight, chills, weakness, diarrhea, and intellectual deterioration.

You can get  HIV by being around people who are infected. HIV is not spread through touch, tears, sweat, or saliva. You cannot catch HIV by being in the same rooms as someone who is HIV-positive; touching objects touched by an HIV-positive person; or hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with someone who is HIV-positive. The virus is spread  by three main routes: sexual contact, exposure to infected body fluids or tissues, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.  You cannot get infected by being exposed to feces, nasal secretions, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit unless these are contaminated with blood. You will not be infected by being bitten by insects who bit HIV infected individuals. When insects bite, they do not inject the blood of the person or animal they have last bitten.
HIV can be transmitted through vaginal, oral sex, anal sex, blood transfusion, use contaminated hypodermic needles and perinatal transmission. (a baby born or breastfeeding from an HIV positive mother.

HIV is only acquired by homosexuals. The virus can be contracted by anyone regardless of sexual preference. Most men do become HIV-positive through sexual contact with other men or through injection drug use. However, 78% of women and only about 16% of men and become HIV-positive through heterosexual contact.  Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV.

Being HIV positive is as good as being dead. In the early years of the disease epidemic, the death rate from AIDS was extremely high. Today, though, antiretroviral drugs allow HIV-positive people – and even those with AIDS – to live much longer, normal, and productive lives as the condition, though incurable, can be managed.

If my partner is also infected, there’s no need to practice safer sex anymore. Practicing safe sex with the use of condoms, dental dams and monogmay– can protect you and your partner from exposure to other strains of HIV.

You can tell by appearance if an individual is HIV positive.  Due to media images of the effects of AIDS, many people believe that individuals infected with HIV will always appear sickly compared to an uninfected, healthy person. The truth is, the progression of the disease can occur over a long period of time before the onset of symptoms, so HIV infections cannot be detected based on appearance. The only way for everyone to know if they’re infected is to get tested.

An HIV-positive who’s undergoing treatment will not spread the virus. HIV treatments can work so well that the amount of virus in the blood can go to a level so low that it doesn’t show up in blood tests. Research shows, though, that the virus is still “hiding” in other areas of the body. You can still spread the virus by having unprotected sex.
HIV and AIDS cannot be cured  but it can be prevented.  We can all say that safe sex is the best prevention but why isn’t it practiced at all times? Why is there still a large number of reported infection? The best tool against HIV/AIDS is the knowledge of how it can contracted and how it can be treated and the open-mindedness that comes with it. If you practice sex, then there’s nothing embarrassing about yourself yourself tested. True, HIV infected individuals may be different from the rest of us (healthwise, at least) but it doesn’t make them lesser of a human being.
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