June 5th marked the 40th anniversary of the first official reporting of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in 1981. Shortly after, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) created the first task force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (infections that occur in those with weakened immune systems).

Since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS estimates over 34.7 million people have died globally. While major scientific progress has been made there are still stigma and false information that continues to circulate.

AIDS vs. HIV – What is the Difference?

While AIDS alone is not a condition, it is the most advanced stage of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV damages the cells in the immune system. If an infected person is not diagnosed or treated adequately, AIDS can quickly develop – which means the immune system is already compromised and unable to protect itself from infections and cancers.

Breaking the Stigma

Once regarded as a “gay man’s” disease, or a rare form of cancer, HIV does not discriminate. It affects people all over the world, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, age, or race. AIDS research and science have grown exponentially since its onset.

  • HIV is no longer a death sentence.
  • The virus does not spread through the air like cold and flu viruses.
  • Part of HIV treatment is taking antiretroviral medicines known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). This slows the progression of the virus and allows the immune system to repair itself.
  • HIV/AIDS is transmitted through sexual contact, blood, needles, or from mother to infant.
  • HIV/AIDS cannot be transmitted through saliva or sweat. It is not passed through using the same toilet or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Prevention is Power

While there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS, there are other ways people can prevent the spread. Today, more tools are available to take action to protect yourself and others. Remember – one encounter is all it takes.

  • Practice safe sex – use condoms.
  • Avoid sharing needles.
  • Ask your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill that can help you prevent HIV, – if it makes sense to you.
  • Early detection and testing are key to the successful treatment of HIV.

Where to Find Support

Support groups can help those living with the challenges of HIV/AIDS. These groups provide an easy way to connect with others, ways to reduce anxiety and depression, and accurate treatments and medical information.

The Well Project – Dedicated to HIV/AIDS focuses on girls and women worldwide.

HIV/AIDS TribeProvides a peer-to-peer support group for individuals or families living with HIV/AIDS, newly diagnosed to long-term survivors.

Positive PeersA private Support app for teens and young adults.

myHIVteamJudgment – free social network for those diagnosed with HIV.

Today, an estimated 37.6 million people are living with HIV, with 27.4 million people accessing antiretroviral therapy. AIDS-related deaths have been declining since their peak in 2004. If you have questions about HIV, call the CDC Info hotline at 800-232-4636 or click here to find your state’s HIV hotline.

#GetTested #SpeakOutHIV #KnowYourStatus #StopHIVTogether

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