By Jada Forbes, Senior
Every year, the month of December is dedicated to AIDS awareness, and December 1st is marked World AIDS Day. For those who don’t know, a widespread virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, was discovered near the 1970s. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing, but one stems from the other. When HIV is contracted, there is a chance that it can develop into AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, as the immune system weakens. AIDS Awareness Month and World AIDS day are considered a great opportunity to educate people on the subject and fight against the epidemic.
Here is a brief history on the HIV/AIDS epidemic:
HIV’s predecessor comes from West Africa; a virus found in chimpanzees, called SIV, or Simian Immunodeficiency Virus. According to The AIDS Institute, “[SIV] most likely was transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood.” From this, the virus began to spread throughout the continent of Africa and to other parts of the world.The main strain of HIV, or HIV-1, is responsible for the globalization of the epidemic and was discovered in a blood sample from a man in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As mentioned before, HIV was discovered in America near the 1970s. The virus was discovered as there was many cases of “rare types of pneumonia, cancers, and other illnesses” being recorded by doctors on both the east and west coast of the country. Among these patients, many were men who had had sex with other men. The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization, includes statistics on their “How HIV Impacts LGBTQ People” page, and it reports: “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 1.2 million people living with HIV (PLWH) in the United States, and approximately 40,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2015 alone...gay and bisexual men made up an estimated 2% of the U.S. population in 2013 but 55% of all PLWH in the United States.” To clarify, the epidemic of HIV/AIDS affects people of all genders and sexual orientations/identities, but most stats are comprised of the those who is impacts the most: members of the LGBTQ community.
The month of December is used to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and the things it may have done to individual people and whole families. With that, shedding light on the fact that “HIV prevention, treatment, and research programs are underfunded and often hampered by ideological restrictions,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, is crucial to the development of awareness of the topic. Therefore, it is necessary to share that the money that is located for HIV prevention and awareness campaigning is not focused on those who it affects the most: Members. Of. The. LGBTQ. Community.
As far as any science goes, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but it can be prevented, as well as treated. As stated in the article titled “HIV Prevention” on The US Department of Health and Human Services website for AIDSinfo, HIV is only spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. There is a list of of ways to prevent, or reduce the risk of contracting HIV in the same article on AIDSinfo. This list includes having protected sex and limiting the number of sexual partners one has. Moreover, treating HIV would begin with early detection through HIV testing. HIV medicines and therapies are available, as well.
All in all, it is essential to learn more about the diseases and illnesses affecting the people we love. HIV/AIDS is much more common than many people think and it is affecting more and more people every day. As we come to educating ourselves more on the subject, we will be able to create an environment where less and less people are infected with HIV/AIDS.
“How HIV Impacts LGBTQ People.” Human Rights Campaign. NP, Feb. 2017. 20 Dec. 2017
“The Basics of HIV Prevention.” AIDs Info. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 19 May 2017. 20 Dec. 2017
“Where did HIV come from?” The AIDs Institute. NP, ND. 20 Dec. 2017