World AIDS Day

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day is a day to increase awareness about AIDS and HIV, fight prejudice, improve education, and reflect on how AIDS and HIV have changed our world, and more importantly, our lives.

At the end of 2007, 33 million people were living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. 2.7 million people become infected with HIV, and 2 million die from AIDS, each year.

There is still no cure for AIDS but treatment for people living with HIV has improved dramatically since the discovery of the disease. While antiretroviral drugs are keeping people alive longer, only 31% of people worldwide, who need them, are receiving them,

More than 25 million people worldwide have died from AIDS since 1981. Young people account for half of all HIV infections worldwide, and over 1 million people have been diagnosed with HIV in the United States. In 2006 alone, 4.3 million people were infected, 40,000 of them right here at home.

Unlike some other diseases, the AIDS pandemic knows no boundaries. People from every walk of life have been affected by it one way or another and almost a quarter of those living with it haven’t even been diagnosed yet. So that means they have no idea they are infected and they could be spreading it to others.

HIV is transmitted through intraveneous drug use, unprotected sex, and blood transfusions. You cannot get HIV by shaking someone’s hand or hugging them. You cannot get it by using a public telephone, restroom, or a drinking fountain. You cannot get it by sharing a drink, dinner, or silverware, and you cannot get it from mosquitos or by giving blood. But you CAN get it.

Some people still want to believe that AIDS is a “gay disease”. But they are mistaken. While AIDS and HIV does affect the gay community, the biggest increase in cases has been through unprotected heterosexual sex, especially in women and black men. The fact is, its easier for most people to remain ignorant and think it’s a “gay disease” than it is for them to start doing something, anything, to protect themselves. Many people have a problem with self-responsibility. AIDS is one of the most preventable diseases, yet it will soon be the third highest cause of death in the world.

Worldwide there are 2.3 million children that are HIV positive. I don’t think they care what people think, or how they got it. They just want to be healthy.

As World AIDS Day approaches each year, some wonder why we don’t have a day for every other disease out there. Some think too much attention has already been given to the AIDS crisis, here in the United States, and abroad. Again, they are mistaken.

Within the next 25 years, AIDS will follow only heart disease and stroke as a leading cause of death worldwide. Unlike people with AIDS, those who have heart disease and strokes are not stigmatized by society because of their illness. People aren’t afraid to hug stroke victims.

Part of the purpose of World AIDS Day is to help tear down the perceptions people have about the disease and inform them of the true dangers of contracting HIV. Elizabeth Taylor once said,”It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance”.

Don’t you agree?

Take some time today to learn more about AIDS and HIV. You can start by visiting www.aids.gov