With the never ending news cycle of health scares these days, it’s tough to keep up with the latest illnesses that pose a threat to you and your family. The Zika virus, the latest flu strain, the latest drug resistant antibiotic – you name it, it’s trending.
But with this onslaught of new diseases rolling in, have we forgotten that one of the worst viruses out there is still floating around in the background? Have we forgotten about AIDS? HIV/AIDS still affects millions of people worldwide and it’s as dangerous as it ever was.
The advent of modern medicines, like retrovirals and PEP, make it easy to think that AIDS is under control. After all, a young man aged 20 that is diagnosed with AIDS today would have a life expectancy of 77 years of age – exactly that of the average American male – as long as he takes antiretroviral medications. But this has lulled people into a false sense of security. And with success stories like Magic Johnson, AIDS gets a reputation as being “cured” when the reality is something else entirely. This complacency, AIDS Amnesia if you will, is dangerous. We are letting down our guard!
Here’s some statistics from the CDC that should bring the threat of this disease back into sharp focus:
- A 2011 study showed that 49,273 Americans were newly diagnosed with HIV and, out of this number, 32,052 developed AIDS – a development rate of 65%.
- So far, 636,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with AIDS have died. And crucially, there are an estimated 1,155,792 Americans that currently have HIV.
- There are around 180,900 people over the age of 13 who don’t know they have the disease. That means that there’s a scary amount of people walking around with a ticking time bomb illness and they could be completely asymptomatic until it’s too late.
Organizations like AIDS.gov (@AIDSgov), Elizabeth Taylor (@ElizabethTaylor), Aaron Matthew Laxton (@aaronlaxton), and RED (@RED) are fighting the good fight to keep awareness of this insidious disease in the public eye.
The best type of action is proactive – using protection at all times and submitting for regular HIV/AIDS testing. It’s better to be abstinent than careless. If you think that you might have been exposed, PEPs (Post-exposure prophylaxis) can be used directly after exposure to fight off HIV.
PEPs is a month long treatment of medication that attempts to prevent the HIV from making copies of itself and infecting your body. It’s used by medical professionals who might have been exposed to HIV infected fluids or needles, anyone who’s had unprotected sex with a stranger, intravenous drug users who have shared needles and victims of sexual assault.
You can request PEP at a lot of places – your local doctor, an emergency room or any AIDS clinic. It isn’t 100% effective but it is the best option available to manage the disease in the immediate aftermath of exposure.
This is why HIV testing is so very important for all adults who are risking exposure by being active sexually. Accidents happen, even to the most cautious of us. Regularly testing yourself means you avoid the life long medications this disease can force upon you; if you even detect your exposure to it at all.
AIDS isn’t the death sentence it once was but it is still a real threat. Make sure you stay as vigilant as you can to protect yourself and your future partners. Get tested!