I was disgusted last week to read about a certain PR rep’s ill-informed tweet about AIDS in Africa. After mulling over what would motivate someone to write something so insensitive, I decided (hoped) that it must be ignorance. And where there is ignorance, there is an opportunity to educate. Accurate information about HIV/AIDS isn’t on the radar for a lot of people who don’t have some type of contact with people infected or affected by it. So here’s a bonus gift – the gift of knowledge! One woman’s trash is another’s gift that gives.
- HIV and AIDS are not the same. HIV is a virus affecting the immune system; if not controlled, it can lead to AIDS, which is a combination of illnesses marking the last stage of HIV.
- HIV is no longer a “death sentence.” Fortunately, fewer people are dying from AIDS due to advances in medical treatment. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to medications. In fact, only about 34% of people who need treatment have access to it.
- HIV is passed on through bodily fluids, which may be shared most commonly during sexual contact, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and injection drug use. It is NOT passed on by hugging, kissing, shaking hands, or drinking after someone.
- HIV is not a “black” disease or a “gay” disease. It is not ascribed to any one group in particular. Risk for HIV infection is increased through certain high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex or injection drug use. If you have had sexual or other high-risk contact with someone who may be infected with HIV, you can find local testing sites at hivtest.cdc.gov.
- Blacks/African-Americans are the racial group most disproportionately affected by HIV. I present this statistic not to perpetuate an ugly stereotype but to encourage us to think about the other factors related to HIV risk and treatment that also disproportionately affect African Americans in the US. For example, there are economic inequalities that fall along racial lines, severely impacting access to medical care. Worldwide, 97% percent of people living with HIV are in low-or middle-income countries. And for really thought-provoking talks about ways to address the economic factors and policy related to HIV risk: