World AIDS Day takes place each year on December 1st. It was established in 1988 and was the first ever global health day. World AIDS Day is dedicated to increasing awareness about HIV and AIDs, which have claimed 35 million lives since AIDS was first identified in 1982. While significant advancements have been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, it still remains a serious health problem.
The difference between HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS are often talked about together, and sometimes it seems as though the two terms are used interchangeably. There’s a difference between HIV and AIDS, however. AIDS is a condition that results from HIV infection.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This virus destroys T cells, weakening the body’s ability to fight off diseases. If HIV is not treated, the virus leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. There are three stages of HIV Infection:
- Stage one is acute HIV infection
- The second stage is clinical latency
- AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV infection
People with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are highly susceptible to disease and infection. If someone has AIDS, their immune system is damaged to the point where they cannot stay healthy and opportunistic infections are likely. Tuberculosis causes one out of three AIDS-related deaths and is the leading cause of death among people with HIV.
Preventing HIV and AIDS
Human immunodeficiency virus spreads through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Most HIV transmission occurs through sex or the use of needles or syringes. Pregnant women who are HIV-positive can transmit the virus to the baby; this is known as mother-to-child transmission.
Before antiretroviral therapy was introduced in the 1990s HIV progressed to AIDS within a matter of years. Today, antiretroviral therapy can help prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS, as well as increase the lifespan and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. There is no known cure for HIV, however. This means that preventing infections is key.
- Get tested for HIV and have your partner get tested.
- Use condoms.
- Limit sexual partners.
- Don’t inject drugs.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis can help prevent HIV infections in people who are at a high risk. This doesn’t replace the need for other prevention methods, but it can help improve protection. Talk to your doctor for any questions regarding HIV and HIV prevention.