10 HIV/AIDS Facts That Everyone Needs to Know


10 HIV/AIDS Facts That Everyone Needs to Know

Five young gay men were being treated by medical professionals in Los Angeles when they discovered the first cases of a new illness that would later be called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

Since then, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is AIDS' primary cause, has been the subject of astounding advances in scientific research.

However, a lot of people continue to have false beliefs about HIV/AIDS, which fuels misinformation, stigma, and fear.

Unfortunately, ignorance has repercussions. "There are many reasons why people need to know the facts about HIV/AIDS, from figuring out whether they are at risk themselves to knowing how to speak sensitively to someone who has HIV or AIDS," says Steven Santiago, MD, the chief medical officer of Care Resource, a nonprofit HIV/AIDS organization in southern Florida.


Here are 10 HIV/AIDS Facts That Everyone Should Know

Continue reading for crucial information about HIV and AIDS that everyone should know.

10 HIV/AIDS Facts That Everyone Needs to Know

1. HIV Can Infect Anybody

It's a persistent myth that only gay men can contract HIV.

It is accurate to say that the highest risk group for contracting HIV in the US is still gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). According to the federal government website HIV.

gov, MSM were responsible for an estimated 71% of new HIV diagnoses in 2020. But heterosexual contact is a common way for people to contract HIV. These cases made up 22% of all new HIV infections in 2020, or more than one in five.

According to estimates, 7% of new HIV infections in 2020 were caused by drug users who shared needles, while 2% of new HIV diagnoses involved transgender people.


2. The Impact of HIV Has Been Particularly Harmful Among Black and Hispanic/Latino People

Communities of color in the US have been particularly hard hit by HIV.

In 2020, there were 42% of new HIV cases among Black Americans, despite making up only about 12% of the population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that this disparity is strongly influenced by racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty, and barriers to healthcare.

Furthermore, with 19% of the U.S. population, Hispanic/Latinos have been disproportionately affected by HIV. In 2020, new HIV diagnoses will still represent 27% of the population.


3. HIV Can Affect Women and Infants

In the United States, approximately one-fourth of those who have HIV are female, and the majority contracted it through heterosexual sex.

According to the CDC, a woman who is HIV-positive and pregnant has a higher risk of passing the virus on to their unborn child, as well as during childbirth and breast-feeding.


4. In Some Areas of the World, HIV Rates are Astronomical

Since 1981, 84 million people have acquired HIV globally, and 40 million have died from AIDS, including over 700,000 in the United States.

HIV infection is commonplace in some nations. In some sub-Saharan African nations, the prevalence of HIV in the population is currently higher than 30%. However, according to the CDC, the frequency of new infections and diagnoses is declining, probably as a result of efforts at prevention.

Even so, there has been uneven development. There is an increase in infections and diagnoses among some groups, such as gay and bisexual men of Hispanic/Latino descent.


5. You May Not Be Aware that You Have HIV

About one in eight HIV-positive individuals are thought to be unaware of their condition.  An HIV infection can cause flu-like symptoms like fatigue, fever, headache, sore throat, and aches in the muscles and joints to appear within the first two to four weeks of the infection. Other HIV signs and symptoms can include itchy, swollen lymph nodes and a rash with small bumps.

However, the CDC notes that in some instances, people won't exhibit any symptoms at all during this initial (acute) stage of infection and may spread the virus covertly. Testing is the only surefire way to find out if you or a partner has HIV.


6. Toilet Seats or Insect Bites Cannot Spread HIV

There are still many misconceptions about how HIV spreads. According to the CDC, you cannot contract HIV through kissing, shaking hands, hugging, or sharing a bathroom or a sink. HIV cannot be acquired through a closed-mouth kiss, coming into contact with the sweat or tears of an infected person, or even by simply working or socializing with an HIV-positive or AIDS-positive person.

According to the U.S., it is also extremely unlikely that HIV can spread from one woman to another through sexual contact.


7. There Are Numerous Methods to Stop HIV Transmission

Since HIV is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids like blood, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and semen (including pre-semenal fluid), the best way to prevent infection is to always practice safer sex and stay away from sharing drug paraphernalia like needles.

Omar Harfouch, MD, MPH, an assistant professor at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and a doctor and researcher who specializes in HIV treatment and prevention, states that using a condom is an efficient method of preventing HIV and that it's also the only method available to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, is a drug that you should consider taking if you have a very high risk of infection, such as if your current sexual partner is HIV positive.

By preventing the virus from setting up shop in your body, this preventive treatment reduces your risk of contracting the disease. The catch is that you must take PrEP religiously and precisely as directed by your doctor.

The U.S. three PreEP treatments, including two oral medications taken daily and one injectable medication given every two months, have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the CDC, PrEP can cut your risk of contracting HIV through sex by more than 74 percent if you use intravenous drugs recreationally. In this latter group, injectable PrEP is not advised by the CDC.


8. After a Potential HIV Exposure, Medicines Can Protect You

HIV prevention medication known as PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is used after a potential exposure. The CDC advises you to notify a healthcare professional or an emergency room physician and start PEP within 72 hours. Starting sooner is preferable. PEP is not intended to take the place of other HIV prevention measures. Discuss PrEP with your healthcare provider if you think you might be frequently exposed to HIV.


9. Your Viral "Load" May Become Undetectable With HIV Treatment

Prior to 1996, HIV was essentially a death sentence. Antiretroviral therapy (ART), a curative combination of medications, was developed over the course of the following 20 years.

A daily regimen of HIV medications is known as ART. The viral load (the amount of HIV in the body) is decreased as a result of this treatment plan's assistance in preventing the virus from replicating. As a result, the immune system has a chance to strengthen and become capable of combating infections and some cancers linked to HIV.

The reduction of a person's viral load, as determined by a viral load test, until it is undetectable in the blood, is one of the main objectives of HIV treatment.

According to Dr. Harfouch, "Undetectable is untransmittable." We know this from large studies conducted in Africa: the risk of HIV transmission is nonexistent for anyone who is known to have the virus, is taking their medication as directed, and has undetectable viral loads".


10. There are a Few Options for HIV Testing, Including an At Home Test

The CDC advises that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get an HIV test at least once, and consider getting tested more frequently if they have multiple sexual partners, engage in unprotected sex, or use needles to inject drugs (up to every six months).

For a standard blood test, you can visit your doctor, or you can get a blood or saliva test almost anywhere that offers sexual health services (usually for free). Additionally, these facilities provide private on-site counseling.

Also, put yourself to the test. The FDA has approved a number of home HIV tests that are currently available online or in pharmacies. Numerous of these tests call for you to prick your finger with a needle, blotter some blood on a piece of paper, and mail the sample to a lab.

The CDC advises getting a second test to confirm the results if any home test yields a positive result.

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