Working in HIV Prevention and outreach some of the things that scare me the most are hearing my clients tell me that because of medical advancements they know if they get HIV that they will only have to take a pill and they aren’t really worried about it. What’s even scarier for me to see is that because this perception is becoming so widely accepted that the culture is changing. So many now choose to be uninhibited because they do not feel like the risk is as big as it might have once been.
Mass media portrays the advancements in HIV like there is a cure right around the corner. I believe that to be a very dangerous portrayal. While there have been so many amazing technological advances in the treatment of HIV, I think we need to be very cautious. Every day I see emails about potential vaccines, cures, new and improved treatments. With news of the Berlin patient and stem cells programed to kill HIV, these things are all great. But the bottom line is we do not have a cure for HIV!
We have known for nearly 30 years how to stop the spread of this disease. Yet we still have a huge number of new infections.
- Every 9½ minutes (on average), someone in the United States is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
- In 2006, an estimated 56,300 people became infected with HIV.
- More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV.
- Of those 1 million people living with HIV, 1 out of 5 does not know they are infected. (People who have HIV but don’t know it can unknowingly pass the virus to their partners.)
- Despite new therapies, people with HIV still develop AIDS.
- Over 1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS.
- More than 14,000 people with AIDS still die each year in the United States.
Those statistics are staggering. We must be realistic and care about our lives. HIV/AIDS is still an epidemic that can very easily kill you. The medications are not a guarantee cure all for everyone who becomes infected. They are very hard on your body. While I am grateful for medications because they no doubt keep so many of us alive, we still need to realize that the only true way to stop the spread of HIV is to be safe. Care enough about your life and the lives of your partners to protect yourself and get tested every 3 to 6 months.
I never thought that I would become infected with HIV, yet a little over two years ago I became one of those statistics. I thought well it won’t ever happen to me and even if it did happen I could just take a pill. Today I speak out to you, to put a face on HIV. It can and will happen to anyone. It knows no bounds, race, age, social status. We are all susceptible. Get tested and save lives, the one you save might just be your own. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe, our voices may be the strongest conduit to change in this world. HIV is a disease that affects all humans. While I hope we see a cure in our life time, I believe that the humanization of HIV is the cure to stopping new infections and treating those of us who are infected now.
Be safe! Get Tested! Ask Questions! Save Lives!