This article was published on September 9th, 2021
In the eighties, there was a lot of confusion about what HIV and AIDS are. Today, we know a lot more than we did during that time. However, many people still lack common knowledge about these diseases. Ignorance isn’t bliss for HIV/AIDS because the less you know, the more likely you will become infected. Here are ten things to know about HIV and AIDS that can keep you safe.
1. The difference between AIDS and HIV
Many people do not know it, but HIV and AIDS are not the same things. First, you cannot catch AIDS. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The only way to get AIDS is to acquire it once HIV has significantly harmed your body. Next time someone says they are HIV positive; it means that they have just that. The chances of someone developing AIDS because of being HIV+ are rare. Usually, about 23% of people who have HIV are diagnosed with AIDS simultaneously. However, they typically have AIDS because of not knowing they are HIV+ positive. When someone does not know they have this virus, they cannot protect themselves or prevent AIDS.
2. HIV can infect anyone
When our community started to become ill because of AIDS, society coined this ‘gay cancer’ and GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency). At the start of the pandemic, we did not have a wealth of information about the virus. The truth about HIV/AIDS is that anyone can become infected. However, gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk of becoming infected due to anal sex. Anal sex increases the chances of passing on the virus because it can cause anal fissures (tears) in the delicate skin around the anus. These tears then allow the virus to pass from one person to another.
3. AIDS has killed a massive portion of the population
Since 1981 around 35 million people have died of the disease, and over 70 million more have contracted it. Surprisingly, it is not people living in western countries who are most affected by the disease. Rather, people live in Sub-Saharan South Africa, where almost one out of every 25 adults live with HIV. Infection rates have declined in the western world, where Prep and information regarding HIV and AIDS are widely available.
4. You can be HIV+ and not know it
When people first become infected with HIV, they experience flu-like symptoms. However, some people are asymptomatic. During this acute stage of HIV, the virus can spread very easily. The only way to know for sure if you are HIV+ is to get a test from a doctor.
5. ART is HIV’s arch-nemesis
ART is antiretroviral therapy, and before 1996 it didn’t exist. If someone contracted HIV before this time, it was usually a death sentence because no treatment options were available. Thankfully today, we not only have ART, but we have many solutions for people who might have had exposure to HIV.
6. You can’t get HIV from kissing
HIV is only spread through specific bodily fluids. Usually by blood, semen, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. Saliva doesn’t usually spread HIV, and the only way it could is if you were to drink a gallon of someone’s spit. That’s far from the spitting play we can see on Pornhub.
7. There are 2 strains of HIV
It’s common to hear about HIV as if it were a single virus. This is far from the reality of the disease. There are two strains of HIVand doctors call them HIV-1 and HIV-2. The former is what is usually found in North America and the latter is more often found in West Africa.
8. HIV affects women too
About a quarter of the people living with HIV in the USA are women according to the CDC and they were infected by heterosexual men. If a woman is HIV+ and pregnant she can pass the virus to her baby or transmit it via her breastmilk.
9. You can test yourself for HIV at home
Some people avoid HIV tests because of stigma, others because they are afraid to know the truth. If you are in the category of being afraid of being stigmatized, you can get an HIV test sent to your home. The CRBC is home to various resources to help you get tested privately and securely. So, click here to read more and find out where you can test now!
10. HIV and AIDs is still overlooked
Worldwide HIV/AIDS is still a problem. Fear, stigma and death are the cause and effects of ignorance relating to the disease. We have come a long way but people who do not know their status are still being affected daily. Everyone needs to know their statusto fight this pandemic.
The fight against stigma and HIV/AIDS is far from over. Keep these facts in mind and remember to always use a condom to keep yourself safe. The more you know the less likely you are to contract the virus.