Considering June is AIDS Awareness Month, this is the perfect time to learn more about HIV/AIDS and make sure you and your loved ones are protected. Right now, about 40 million people in the world are living with HIV infection or AIDS. This estimate includes 37 million adults and 2.5 million children. In the United States alone, more than 1 million people are living with HIV and 20% are unaware of their infection.
What is HIV/AIDS?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the "flu" or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn't the case with HIV – the human immune system can't seem to get rid of it. We know HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells your body can't fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV infection. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs). You will be diagnosed with AIDS if you have one or more specific OIs, certain cancers, or a very low number of CD4 cells. If you have AIDS, you will need medical support and treatment to prevent death.
How do you get HIV?
How can I protect myself from HIV transmission?
The most effective ways to protect yourself from HIV are:
- Don't have sex (anal, oral, or vaginal)
- Limit your number of sex partners and know your partner's HIV status and your own
- Use a new condom every time you have sex
Where to get an HIV test?
Thursday, June 27th is National HIV testing day. You can get tested for HIV at a number of places, including your local health department, public health clinics, and your doctor’s office. Many AIDS service groups also offer HIV testing. One of the easiest ways to find a convenient HIV testing location is to visit the HIV/AIDS Prevention & Service Provider Locator. Just type in your ZIP code and, within seconds, you will get a list of HIV testing sites near you—including those that offer free HIV testing!
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