December is national AIDS/HIV Awarness month. AIDS/HIV is a global health crisis that continues to affect millions of people around the world. While there have been major scientific advances in treating HIV, it remains a serious disease with no cure. As such, it's important for everyone to understand what AIDS/HIV is, how it is transmitted, and how to protect yourself from infection. Let’s take a closer look at this important issue.
What is AIDS/HIV?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, while HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV attacks and weakens your immune system by destroying certain white blood cells called CD4 cells (or T-cells) that help you fight off infections and diseases. When your immune system becomes too weak, you become vulnerable to other infections and illnesses that your body would normally be able to fight off. This is when you are said to have "developed AIDS."
How Is It Transmitted?
HIV is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual contact or intravenous drug use (sharing needles). It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. However, it cannot be spread through casual contact like hugging or kissing; sharing food or drinks; using toilets; touching doorknobs; or coughing, sneezing, or saliva contact.
It's also important to note that in the US and some other countries, all donated blood is tested for HIV before being used in medical procedures—so receiving a blood transfusion carries no risk of infection today.
Prevention & Treatment
The best way to prevent getting infected with HIV is by avoiding risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex and sharing needles with someone who may be infected with HIV. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, there are medications available that can reduce your chances of becoming infected if started within 72 hours of exposure—so it's important not to delay seeking medical attention if necessary. There are also treatments available today that can help those living with HIV manage the virus more effectively than ever before. These treatments include antiretroviral therapy (ART), which helps slow down the replication of the virus within the body and helps keep people healthy for longer periods of time—and even potentially for life!
Although significant progress has been made in fighting against AIDS/HIV over the past few decades, there is still much work left to do in order to truly eradicate this global health crisis once and for all. Knowing what AIDS/HIV is, how it is transmitted, and how best to protect yourself are all key steps towards achieving this goal. With increased awareness comes increased understanding—which leads us one step closer towards ending this epidemic once and for all!
Learn more from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/default.html
Northeast Missouri Health Council, Partners for a lifetime of health
Medical, Dental, and Behavioral Clinics in Kirksville, Missouri, Macon, Missouri, Milan, Missouri, and Kahoka, Missouri. Visit our website to find the nearest clinic to you. www.nemohealthcouncil.com