There is no one way that people contract HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS. The population that lives with this disease is composed of individuals, as different and distinct as any other population. The one thing all people living with HIV/AIDS have in common is the overwhelming need for love and compassion, and the right to live with dignity in a community that is supportive, understanding, and responsible.
There is no one face of HIV/AIDS. HIV does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are a man or a woman, white or black, gay or straight, young or elderly. It doesn’t matter. Here are some facts about HIV/AIDS:
• HIV Definition: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Taken word for word, it means that this virus can only be found in humans. Immunodeficiency means that it attacks someone’s immune system and destroys it, leaving the body vulnerable to infections.
• AIDS Definition: Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus. Taken word for word, it means that AIDS is a syndrome (a combination of symptoms) that someone has acquired (gotten) that is caused by the deficiency (or weakness) of the immune system. Because the immune system is the system in the human body that works to protect it from disease, someone with an immune system weakened by HIV may get sick more that people with healthy immune systems.
• HIV begins to affect the cells in our immune system. After a while, the body becomes more and more susceptible to opportunistic infections that individuals with healthy immune systems do not usually get. At this point, the HIV has caused AIDS.
• There is no cure or vaccine for HIV.
• People with AIDS can die from diseases that their immune systems cannot defeat.
• Over 2.5 million people have died from AIDS in the 30 years since it was first diagnosed.
The 5 bodily fluids that can contain HIV are:
1. Human Blood: The virus is actually very fragile, so once the virus is exposed to open air, the virus dies. (Examples: two open wounds pressed together, sharing needles including unsterilized tattooing needles and injection drug use)
2. Semen: HIV can be found in a man’s semen. (Example: unprotected sex)
3. Vaginal fluid: HIV can be found in the vaginal fluid of a woman. A mother can pass her HIV onto her child during birthing through vaginal fluid and blood. (Examples: unprotected sex, child birth)
4. Breast milk: HIV can be present in an HIV-positive mother’s breast milk. (Example: breast feeding)
5. Pre-ejaculate: HIV can be present is semen, which is found in pre-ejaculate (pre-cum). (Example: unprotected sex)
• HIV cannot be transmitted casually. You cannot contract HIV by sharing a drink, from toilet seats, by hugging, from mosquitoes, through someone’s tears, or by being a friend.
• There are 56,300 new infections reported in the United States annually
• Every 9 ½ minutes, a person in the United States becomes infected with HIV
• More than 14,000 people in the U.S. die of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses every year
• Today, about one million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
• One out of every five (21%) people with HIV in the U.S. do not know that they are infected
• The 50+ population accounts for 15% of all new diagnoses, and 24% of all people living with AIDS in the United States
• Only $1.6 million in government funding was allotted for HIV/AIDS care for fiscal year 2010
• In 2006, 49% of people diagnosed with HIV were black, 18% were Hispanic, 30% were white, 1% were Asian and less than 1% were American Indian
• Also estimated in 2006, 53% of infections were attributed to male to male sexual contact, 36% to high risk heterosexual contact, 12% to intravenous drug use and 4% to male to male sexual contact and intravenous drug use
• As of the end of 2009, 30,537 people had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts. The state was ranked 10th highest among the 50 states in number of reported AIDS cases in 2005
• As of December 31, 2009, there were 1,929 individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Hampden and Hampshire counties. This includes 1,118 in the city of Springfield alone.
Links to Resources and Information
• The Center for Disease Control
• Massachusetts Department of Public Health
• Baystate Health
• Tapestry Health
• Caring Health Center
• River Valley Counseling
• Gandara Center
• The Research Institute, Dr. Claudia Martorell
• AIDS Care/Hampshire County
• Walgreens Health