When someone mentions "HIV/AIDS" what is the first thing that comes to mind?
—Something you learned about in health class?
—Or saw on TV?
—Or recall a friend who recently got tested for HIV?
—Or a celebrity who raises awareness about HIV/AIDS around the world?
Here's some of the science behind HIV/AIDS that you may not know; HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), a disease of the immune system. Currently, there is no cure, but there is treatment. The good news? HIV/AIDS is preventable, and you can protect yourself by knowing how it is spread and using good judgment. Here are some typical questions that you might have, which research has helped to answer:
- How does someone get HIV? HIV is transmitted when an infected person's blood or other bodily fluid comes in contact with the blood, broken skin, or mucous membranes of someone who is not infected.
- Isn't HIV just a problem in foreign countries like Africa? It's true that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is worse in certain foreign countries, but it is also prevalent in the United States. Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV, affecting people of every age, race, and creed. Even teens.
- How many teens really have HIV? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 50,000 young people 13 to 24 years old were living with the virus that causes AIDS in 2006, and nearly half didn't even know they had it.
- What does drug abuse have to do with it? You've probably heard that needle-sharing among injection drug users can spread the disease, which is true. However, using drugs and alcohol also puts people at risk. That's because when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their judgment is impaired, and they're more likely to make impulsive decisions they normally wouldn't, like having sex. Since HIV is sexually transmitted, unprotected sex can lead to getting HIV or giving it to someone else. And since so many teens don't even know they have HIV, they can pass it on without even knowing.
So, now what? Make healthy choices and protect yourself and your friends. For more information about HIV/AIDS, check out our friends over at AIDS.gov.