Worldwide, it is estimated that 1% of people are infected with HIV. In the United States, one in four people living with HIV are women. Medical advances are enabling people with HIV/AIDS to live longer and fuller lives, but the threat of the virus is still very real. Especially when nearly half of our children [high school students] are sexually active and 15% of those with four or more partners.
World AIDS day is December 1. Continuing to raise awareness and work towards prevention is still the best way to combat HIV/AIDS. We’ve come a long way since 1983 when the HIV virus was first discovered, but there is still much to be done. According to the CDC in 2010, about 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV. And of those people, nearly 20% do not know they are infected.
Among women, those aged 25 to 44 accounted for the majority of new HIV infections in 2010. Women are significantly more likely to be infected during vaginal intercourse from an HIV-positive man than vice versa. HIV diagnosis are disproportionately affecting African American Women. Sadly, HIV was among the top 10 leading causes of death for black/African American women aged 15 to 64. To put that in perspective, at some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 32 black/African American women will be diagnosed with HIV infection, compared with 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latino women and 1 in 526 white/Caucasian women.
Medical advances and successful therapies are making significant impacts on our fight against HIV/AIDS. And because people are living longer with HIV, the fastest-growing segment of the US population with HIV/AIDS are people age 50 and older. While the stigma still exists in some communities, in general it is no longer viewed as a “death sentence”. NPR recently aired an interesting segment on the perspectives of young people living with HIV and how they are changing.
How can you help? Talk to your friends, family and colleagues. Raise awareness, wear the red ribbon, buy (RED), learn more about HIV/AIDS. Encourage others. Share that there is free, fast and confidential testing available through the CDC-endorsed “Take Charge. Take the Test” program. Get tested. The US Preventive Service Task Force recommends that everyone, including pregnant women, get screened for HIV. If there is high risk sexual behavior or other cause for concern the recommendation is to be screened for HIV at least annually (if not more frequently). Dare to get involved in health policy, advocacy, legislation, and research! Elizabeth Pisani gives an interesting TED talk about how she uses unconventional field research to understand how real-world behaviors influence AIDS transmission — and to overhaul antiquated, ineffective prevention strategies.
Few are infected, but many are affected. So on December 1, be inspired and join the world in our fight against HIV/AIDS.