Despite all the talk about HIV/AIDS, many people still do not know much about it, beyond fundraising efforts like Product Red.
People generally know that having AIDS is not a good thing, but tend to believe AIDS only afflicts African countries—which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Currently, 21,000 Virginians live with AIDS.
When reporting the disease, the Centers for Disease Control states that a person “lives” with AIDS, as opposed to being “infected with” or “dying from” AIDS. While a little over a half a million Americans have died from AIDS, many more Americans are living with AIDS.
More importantly, they are living longer. Although it is wonderful that more people with the disease are living longer, the unfortunate side-effect is higher rates of transmission.
You are probably still thinking AIDS has nothing to do with you and that you don’t need to worry about it.
Well, let me bring it a little closer to home. First of all, people who have HIV/AIDS look like everyone else. There are no distinct differences in their appearances.
Secondly, the number of males living with the disease, in Virginia alone, is staggering. The Virginia Department of Health states, “one out of every 370 Virginians is known to be living with HIV/AIDS.”
The VDH adds that, “For every five Virginians living with HIV/AIDS, approximately four are men, three are black, three live in the Eastern or Northern region, and two are men who have sex with other men.”
Anal sex is the easiest way to transmit the infection, for it creates tiny tears around the anus. Coming into contact with these minor cuts leads to infection.
In general, anyone can contract the disease by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood or sexual fluids, namely vaginal fluids or semen. Additionally, sharing needles increases one’s risk of contracting the disease.
Obviously, the most effective way to eliminate the risk of becoming infected is to abstain from sexual activities, and stay away from heroin and other intravenous drugs.
If you are sexually active, it is tremendously important that you use condoms consistently and correctly. Likewise, it is important to get tested for HIV/AIDS. The VDH states that approximately 5,500 Virginians do not know they are infected.
Thankfully, UMW is doing a fabulous job of offering free testing and education for HIV/AIDS this year. The Student Health Center is giving away free HIV/AIDS testing untill the end of the year.
Your information and result is confidential. The nurse collects your name and demographic information solely for national and state reporting purposes. Regardless of the result, you’re given a nice goody-bag with educational information and resources, in addition to free condoms.
I encourage you to get tested if you are sexually active.
Education and prevention is the number one way to prevent HIV/AIDS. For more information about HIV/AIDS, see avert.org or cdc.gov/hiv/.