The HIV/AIDS epidemic is considered one of the worst in our global history. In fact, there were approximately 38 million people around the world living with HIV/AIDS in 2019. Despite its massive impacts, there are still large amounts of misinformation and many damaging stigmas about HIV/AIDS within our society today.
Debunking myths and sharing accurate information about these conditions is essential when fighting both the diseases themselves and the stigma surrounding them.
The Difference Between HIV and AIDS
What Is HIV?
HIV, which stands for “human immunodeficiency virus,” attacks a person’s immune system. More specifically, attacking the cells that fight against incoming infections. Meaning, anyone with this disease is much more vulnerable to other illnesses. It’s most commonly spread through bodily fluids, such as when someone has unprotected sex.
Once a person contracts HIV, it’s with them for life. While it’s not curable, there are ways to help manage it. Approved medication and lifestyle choices allow people with HIV to live long and healthy lives with their loved ones.
What Is AIDS?
AIDS is the last stage of HIV infection, in which the survival rate falls to about three years without proper medication.
A person with HIV is considered to have AIDS when their blood cell count reaches a certain number (CD4 cells fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood) or if they contract one or more serious infections.
The good news is that most people with HIV do not progress to AIDS if they are taking medication. That’s why it’s vital to get tested often, especially if you’re having unprotected sex. Knowing if you have HIV as early as possible leads to more successful management.
Stigma Surrounding HIV & AIDS
HIV is one of the world’s worst epidemics and diseases, and it also has negative stigmas surrounding it. This illness most commonly impacts people in LGTBQIA+ communities. At the time HIV first appeared in 1981, those people were not widely accepted and faced many unfair prejudices.
When this epidemic broke out, those who were unaccepting of LGTBQIA+ communities spread false information and prejudices about the disease, some of which still prevails to this day. Unfortunately, those negative consequences impact those who do have HIV or AIDS, as this stigma can lead to many not receiving fair treatment or being too embarrassed to talk about their own experiences.
That’s why education and the spread of correct information are so vital! If you’d like to learn more about the prejudices, read this resource about how to stand up to the stigma facing this disease.
Do you have any further questions? While our health experts are always here to help, we recommend also visiting HIV.gov, a resource for education on this topic. As mentioned above, annual testing for HIV & AIDS is essential for lifelong management. At YourTown Health, we’re proud to offer testing to our patients.