Over the weekend there have been articles released about a toddler in Mississippi being ‘functionally cured’ of HIV. Although it’s still too early to tell what this could mean for adults and other children with the disease, many are hopefully that scientists have finally found a cure.
Although this is a wonderful scientific breakthrough, we should keep in mind that the best way to eradicate HIV and AIDs is to educate ourselves and work to prevent its spread. Here are a few things you should know about HIV in America.
How Prevalent Is HIV in America?
Every 9.5 minutes, someone is infected with HIV. Currently, there are over 1 million people in the United Sates with HIV. 1 in 5 are UNAWARE they have it.
Who Is at Risk?
When it comes down to it, no one is exactly “safe” when it comes to HIV, although there are some people who are at higher risk than others. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, accounted for 61% of new infections in 2009. Heterosexual men and women followed with 27%. Those who are injection drug users accounted for 9% while drug users who were also men who had sex with men were at 3%.
African American men and women are also at high risk. They accounted for almost half (46% in 2008) of HIV cases in America. Hispanic men and women are the second highest risk group followed by Caucasian.
How Do You Get HIV or AIDs?
HIV can be found in a variety of body fluids. If you come into contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluids, breast milk or anal mucus, you could contract the disease. This means that you can contract HIV through sexual contact, pregnancy, childbirth, or breast feeding, intravenous drug use, and rarely organ transplants and blood transfusions.
Healthcare workers who come into contact with these fluids as well as amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and synovial fluid can also contract HIV if the fluids are infected.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms?
Unfortunately, most people do not have any symptoms and only start to feel sick when the disease has progressed to AIDS. However, people can began to feel sick after 2-4 of the exposure and then feel fine. After the initial infection, the disease becomes less active in the body, sometimes “hiding” itself for 10 years or more.
The early stage after that 2 to 4 weeks after the exposure to the virus is know as ARS. It can also present itself up 3 months later. It resembles the flu. Symptoms include fever, chills, sore throat, rash, fatigue, swollen nymph nodes, and ulcers in the mouth. Keep in mind though that not everyone who has HIV has had ARS symptoms.
How Can I Protect Myself?
- ALWAYS practice safe sex! Condoms help reduce your risk of catching HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Limit your sexual partners. The more people you have sex with (especially if it’s unprotected, the greater your risk of contracting HIV.
- Don’t share your needles or use the same needle twice.
- Get tested regularly! The best way to protect yourself and others is to get tested to make sure you don’t have the disease.