Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, a time to show support for those living with, or those whose lives have been affected by, HIV or AIDS. But World AIDS Day is about more than just showing support. It’s also a time to increase awareness and inform people about HIV and AIDS. The hope is that by educating people about the virus and the syndrome that it causes, HIV can be eliminated in future generations.
This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “The Time to Act is Now”. The Director of the Office of the Office of National AIDS Policy wrote, “The Time to Act Is Now looks to the future and demonstrates the urgent need for action today.” This theme underlines the immediate need for action in HIV prevention, treatment, and control.
Some people mistakenly think that HIV and AIDS are synonymous. While very closely related, HIV and AIDS are two distinct things.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and while there are many different strains of HIV, the most common type is HIV-1. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, making it difficult for a person who is infected with the virus to fight off other diseases and infections. HIV also attacks CD4 cells. These are a type of white blood cell made in the spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus gland that are responsible for fighting infections.
HIV is transmitted when certain bodily fluids of an HIV infected person come into contact with mucous membranes of a person who is not infected with the virus. These fluids include: blood, breast milk, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, semen, and vaginal fluids. The virus is not transmitted through saliva, sweat, or urine.
There is currently no cure for HIV, but if the virus is detected and treated early enough, a person with HIV can live a healthy life. If left untreated, however, HIV can lead AIDS.
AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and is considered to be the final stage of HIV. A person with AIDS is even more susceptible to a number of health problems and life threatening conditions, because their immune system is too weak to fight off infections and diseases.
HIV is a problem on a global level. There have been 38.1 million new HIV infections since the year 2000, as well as 25.3 million deaths due to AIDS. Last year, there were almost 37 million people living with HIV.
Since there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, the focus has to be on prevention. We currently have enough information as to what causes HIV, and the measures we need to take to prevent the virus.
Join in on social media this World AIDS Day with the hashtag #WAD2015. For more information of World AIDS Day, check out the official website.