December 1st marks World Aids Day and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
I fall into one of those categories – I have lost a loved one to AIDS.
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system — the body’s defense against diseases.
- Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
- You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
- HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
- Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
- You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
- There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV
- HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
Stats about HIV and AIDS – 2016
- So far, in 2018, 38,500 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV, and about 1 in 7 don’t know it.
- In the US the number of new HIV diagnoses fell 19% from 2005 to 2014, with large declines among heterosexuals and persons who inject drugs (PWID). Gay and bisexual men continue to be the most affected population, accounting for two-thirds of new diagnoses.
- Globally, an estimated 36.7 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS.
- Each year, more than 1 million people die from AIDS-related causes and 2.1 million people become newly infected by HIV.
- Two-thirds of new HIV infections worldwide occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 1991 Magic Johnson made his statement that he had HIV. I was only ten years old at the time, but Magic Johnson became a name that I cannot, and will not, forget. You see, my biological father died of Cryptococcal Meningitis due to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the summer of 1992. At the time the world was afraid. Scratch that, the world was terrified. False information went around that you could get HIV/AIDS from touching someone or from spit. Techonology back then was not what it was now. Correct information took more time to spread then than it does today (remember, it was a time without Facebook and Twitter).
Here’s my brief story:
My biological dad was not around much when I was growing up. I can recall one summer that I spent with him, and that time frame was only a few weeks. My biological father was not gay, but he was in intravenous drug user. At one point he had a blood transfusion…..in a time when blood was not routinely screened for HIV/AIDS. Between the drug use and the blood transfusion my biological father was infected with HIV that turned in to full blow AIDS that killed him.
The summer of 1992 rolled around and we got a phone call saying my biological father was sick and in the hospital. He didn’t have much time to live. We were poor, poverty poor. There was no way I would be able to see him to say good-bye since he was thousands of miles away. The fact that I was 11 probably also played a role in that factor too. My father lost his hearing and his vision. One day in August (my younger half-brother’s birthday) as I was finishing a three-dimensional card that said “I love you” (3D so he could feel it), the phone rang and we were told that my father had died.
At the age of 11 my younger brother and I went to an in-home day care over the summer. My mom told the day care provider what had happened. Normally I had been a great help with the smaller children – toting babies, changing diapers, and allowed to touch other people. But that all changed when the words HIV/AIDS were spoken. Because we did not know how my biological father contracted the illness we didn’t know if my mom and I were at risk for having it. Back then it took weeks (that felt like years) for blood test results to come back. I had my first HIV test at the age of 11. ELEVEN! It came back negative, as did my mom’s test. But those were the longest weeks of my life. People treated me differently. People were afraid of me. Grown adults were afraid of a child. It was a big life lesson, one that I still clearly remember.
As the world spreads awareness on World AIDS Day I encourage you to not turn down testing when you have blood work. I encourage you to learn the facts. And lastly, I encourage you to be safe if you partake in any of the risk factors involved with HIV/AIDS.
Technology has advanced so much that you can perform an HIV test at home via saliva. Results are ready in about 20 minutes. I would have loved to have immediate results when I was a child instead of weeks of worrying and waiting.
Let’s keep helping fund HIV/AIDS research, technology, and education. The world has come a long way since the 1980’s and it’s going to get better with KNOWLEDGE.
Thank you for reading this.
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