30th World AIDS Day

Today Marks the 30th World AIDS Day, Here Are Seven Facts About the Disease

Amelia Westfall, Staff Reporter

Today is the 30th World AIDS Day. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day honors those who have died from AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) related diseases and those who continue to suffer from HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS.

35 million people suffer from HIV/AIDS today and 35 million people have died from AIDS-related conditions since the ‘80s. It’s one of the most stigmatized diseases out there, which is why it’s important to distinguish fact from fiction.

Here are some facts about HIV/AIDS you need to know

  1. HIV/AIDS cannot be contracted through casual contact.

HIV/AIDS can only be contracted through contact with blood, semen, vaginal or anal secretions and/or breast milk of someone who suffers from HIV/AIDS. You cannot get it from saliva, sweat, physical contact, toilet seats, or mosquito bites.

  1. Currently, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS.

As of 2018, there has yet to be a cure for HIV/AIDS. However, someone who suffers from the disease can still live a long, healthy life due to medication. Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) is able to slow down the virus so that it does not wreck the immune system of an HIV sufferer. ART also makes it impossible for HIV/AIDS to be transmitted. As long as someone who suffers from HIV/AIDS is taking their medication, they cannot transmit the disease to anyone.

  1. Anyone can get HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS knows no race, gender, sexual orientation, or age. Although certain groups are at higher risk than others, the disease doesn’t discriminate. It is recommended that everyone ages 13-64 get tested at least once in their lives. Those are sexually active, regardless of the partner, should get tested regularly for HIV along with other STDs.

  1. Symptoms of HIV aren’t always noticeable.

HIV/AIDS has an asymptomatic phase of 10-15 years. Meaning, if you contract HIV, you may never feel sick until it has already progressed into AIDS. Even before the asymptomatic phase starts, symptoms of HIV include the same symptoms of the flu, making it easy to misdiagnose.  This is why it’s so important to get tested regularly if you are sexually active or at risk of contracting it in any other way.

  1. HIV is not the same thing as AIDS.

HIV is a virus that leads to the deterioration of the immune system. HIV eventually leads to AIDS, also known as stage 3 HIV. AIDS is the last stage of HIV, and, essentially, the last set of symptoms before death. When caught in the early stages of HIV, life expectancy is much higher than for someone who is in stage 3.

  1. There are ways to prevent against HIV.

PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medication taken by high-risk individuals to prevent against contracting HIV. It has been proven to have a 92% success rate at preventing HIV. Condoms are another way to protect against the virus, with an 80% success rate. Other prevention methods include abstinence, always using clean needles for drug use, and knowing your partner’s status. Never have sex with someone before knowing their status and whether they’re positive for HIV or other STDs. Methods that aren’t effective at preventing HIV include pulling out, having sex with a virgin, being on the pill, and herbal medication.

  1. You cannot (technically) die from AIDS.

No one has ever technically died from AIDS. However, since HIV/AIDS destroys the immune system, sufferers are extremely prone to diseases. A simple cold could easily kill someone who suffers from unmanaged AIDS because their immune systems cannot fight off the illness. AIDS-related diseases account for the 35.4 million people who have died since the epidemic began in 1981.