December 1st brings many things to mind. Christmas music playing on every radio station, classic Winter wonderland movies, candy canes and the color red takes over the streets. But today the color red stands for much more than the color of Santa’s jolly costume and rosy cheeks.
The color red also stands for HIV and AIDS awareness.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. To better explain the virus, we’ve taken this excerpt from AIDS.gov:
“Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life. No safe and effective cure for HIV currently exists, but scientists are working hard to find one, and remain hopeful.
HIV affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, if left untreated, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. However, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. It involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day. Today, a person who diagnosed with HIV before the disease is far advanced and who gets and stays on ART can live a nearly normal life span.
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them, too. You can also get an FDA-approved home HIV testing kit (the Home Access HIV-1 Test System or the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test) from a drugstore.”
What is AIDS?
AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV, stands for an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. To better explain AIDS, we’ve taken this excerpt from AIDS.gov:
“AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage.
AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable toopportunistic infections. When the number of your CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3), you are considered to have progressed to AIDS. (Normal CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm3.) You can also be diagnosed with AIDS if you develop one or more opportunistic infections, regardless of your CD4 count.
Without treatment, people who are diagnosed with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic illness, life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year. People with AIDS need medical treatment to prevent death.”
There are many steps to take in being safe and taking preventative measures against HIV and AIDS. The first and one of the most important steps is: GET TESTED. To find somewhere near you that tests for HIV and AIDS click here.
What can you do to help:
Spread awareness! Although today is known for spreading awareness for HIV/AIDS, that doesn’t mean it’s the only day to get people educated and involved. Other than spreading awareness you can always volunteer at HIV clinics near you!
Reach out today. Let’s support those who have ever been affected by HIV and AIDS, and inform those who aren’t aware of what HIV can lead to.