World AIDS Day – All You Should Know & Frequent Questions Answered

People all over the world observed the 31st annual World AIDS Day on Sunday the 1st of December. The World Aids day is an event that was first declared in 1981 to raise more awareness of the spread of HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization first declared the World Aids day.

Per information made available by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), an estimated 37.9 million people around the world were reported to be living with HIV by the end of 2018. When this data, the UNAIDS reports that 1.7 million people across the globe were newly infected in 2018.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 1.1 million individuals were living with HIV in the United States by the end of 2016. It was also discovered that 1 in 7 individuals who had the disease was not aware of it.

According to reports by the CDC, “37,832 people got an HIV diagnosis within the United States and dependent areas.”

All over the World, 770,000 individuals died from AIDS-related sicknesses in 2018, per the UNAIDS. The CDC has reported that there were 16,350 deaths among HIV positive individuals in the United States. The UNAIDS added that the deaths might be a result of any cause.

What do HIV and AIDS stand for?

HIV and Aids are popular acronyms for human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV and aids are not the same things. While HIV is a virus that can graduate into AIDS,  AIDS is only the final of three stages of the HIV infection.

According to the center for disease control, patients in the first stage, known as acute HIV infection, deal with a flu-like illness within the first 2 to 4 weeks after infection. This illness can last a few weeks.

People who are in this stage of the disease have large amounts of the HIV in their blood; thus, they are more likely to transmit the infection.

The second stage of the infection, the clinical latency stage, marks a period where the HIV is active but only reproduces at low levels.

People at this stage of the infection might not experience any symptoms but can still transmit the disease to others. This stage of the virus can last for several decades, depending on treatment, but it can be shorter.

AIDS is the third stage of the infection, and it is the stage that leads to the most severe illnesses because, over time, the virus causes damages to the immune system. On average, people living with AIDS who do not get treatment can survive up to three years.

Treatment of the illness at all three stages can either prevent or moderate symptoms and lessen the risk of transmission.

What do the red ribbons signify?

The red ribbon that stands as a sign for HIV/AIDS was created in 1991 by artists in New York who to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS.

The artists took the red ribbon as an easy-to-copy method of showing compassion for people living with HIV, especially will the stigma surrounding it.

How do you know if you have HIV or AIDS?

Getting tested is the best way to find out whether you have HIV or not, but symptoms can show up before the virus shows up on a test. Some patients experience flu-like symptoms – including rash, fever, chills, night sweats, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, or mouth ulcers – within 14 days of infection.

How does HIV make you sick?

HIV attacks a person’s immune system by reducing the cells, or CD4 cells, making it more challenging to combat other infections.”Over time, the HIV condition can destroy several of these cells that the body can not fight off diseases and infections.

According to information from HIV.gov, HIV becomes AIDS when the T cell counts reduce below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, or specific AIDS-related complications like severe infections appear.

How is the virus transmitted?

A person can get infected with HIV only via certain activities that put them in contact with some bodily fluids.

Rectal fluids, Blood, pre-seminal fluid, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluids can transmit HIV.

The CDC says that “These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur.”

Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with a person who has HIV is one of the two primary ways HIV is spread within the United States. The second most common way is the use of contaminated needle or syringe.

A mother can pass HIV on to her baby during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or birth. HIV can also be contacted via the use of any item contaminated with HIV.

When did the HIV/AIDS epidemic begin?

U.S. scientists discovered the first clinical evidence for HIV that is now known as AIDS in 1981, per information from the United Nations. Chimpanzees living in Central Africa are the source of HIV in humans.

The chimps version of the virus, known as SIV, was most probably transmitted to humans and later mutated, according to the CDC.

Can HIV/AIDS be treated?

Yes, it can. People living with HIV can take several drugs, known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART that prevent the virus from progressing further keeps them healthy for many years, and drastically lessens their likelihood of spreading HIV.

Is there a cure?

None yet. Researchers are continually working towards achieving a cure.

Is there a vaccine?

There is none at the moment, but there have been several recent developments.

Should I get tested for HIV?

The center for disease control recommends everyone from ages 13 to 64 gets an HIV test done at least once.

People who are at higher risk of getting an infection, like people who have had sex with several people or an HIV-positive partner, people who are sexually active gay or bisexual, sex workers, people who have shared needles among others, must get tested more often.

How do I get tested?

Getting an HIV test done is easy. Most of the tests involve oral fluid or blood. Hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and other approved places provide HIV testing.
If you prefer, home testing equipment can also be acquired.

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.