Here’s some info you need to know about HIV, how to treat it, prevent it, and finally end the stigma.
It’s been three decades since the HIV epidemic hit humanity. So far, 36.9 million people live with the virus, and 77.3 million have been infected since the epidemic began. Back in the 1980s, the gay community was the one with the highest number of deaths until, little by little, the virus began to spread to all sectors of society regardless of age, gender, sexual preference, nationality, ethnicity, or class.
After the efforts of many organizations and groups looking to fight HIV and AIDS, today, the quality of life of those living with the virus has changed drastically thanks to two decades of awareness and scientific research. Nowadays, life expectancy and quality of life with the virus has improved for people in developing countries. Yet, there’s still a long way to go to stop the epidemic, as every year 1.8 million people worldwide become infected.
Here’s a list of data you should know about the virus, how to treat it, how to prevent it, and how to end the stigma that surrounds it once and for all.
1 - Truvada has changed the lives of people who have HIV. Thanks to this drug, many people around the world have become undetectable, reducing their risk of developing AIDS-related illnesses.
2 - 1.8 million new people have become infected since 2017. Nevertheless, the rate of new transmissions has decreased (at a very slow pace).
3 - 1 out of 4 people living with HIV don’t know they have it. This means that approximately 9 million people don’t know they live with the virus, which puts their health in danger.
4- There’s no way to know if oral sex is risky when it comes to HIV transmission (since most people who become infected have oral sex and then engage in anal or vaginal sex). However, it’s important that you always wear a condom to avoid STIs.
5 - If you have other STDs, your chances of contracting HIV increase. This has to do with the sores that may appear after an STI turns into an STD, which increases the risk of letting the virus into your system (as if it were an open wound).
6 - Anal sex is the riskiest sexual practice. This has to do with the fact that the anus is more prone to suffer damage as a result of friction, leaving small sores or tears that are an open door for transmission. That’s why it’s important to wear a condom and always use lube.
7 - HIV positive means that the carrier is “infectious.” Not really. If people living with HIV know their status, it is most likely that they already are on antiretroviral treatment, reducing the copies of the virus in their system, which makes transmission unlikely to happen.
8 - HIV positive means you will eventually develop AIDS. This is wrong. HIV is the virus which, if treated carefully and on time, can lower the viral load very fast, sometimes in a matter of weeks (depending on how many copies of the virus you have in your system), which can prevent the illnesses the cause AIDS.
9 - Men who have sex with men tend to be the most-educated people regarding sex education. Historically, this was the most affected community by the epidemic, yet HIV is no longer an exclusively gay issue. Go to your closest health center to ask for information regarding the virus and other STIs.
10 - There’s no such thing as "clean." On gay dating apps, it is common to see discrimination towards people living with HIV. This is a clear example of discrimination through language. People living with the virus are not dirty: they’re people who take care of their health and the health of others. If anything, we should look up to them and respect them.
11 - PrEP keeps you safe. Yes and no. Though PrEP is a great way to prevent transmission, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are exempt from other STDs. Also, people on PrEP should check their kidneys every three months, and this drug doesn’t work that well on the vaginal tissue.
12. - Condoms and lube are mandatory. Lube is key to avoid friction, which can lead to tears or scratches that make you and your partner more vulnerable to HIV and STIs.
13 - You have 72 hours if you were exposed to the virus. This is the amount of time you have to get enough antiretrovirals (also known as PEP) in your body so that HIV does not replicate and infects your body.
14 -The best form of Prevention is getting tested. For somebody who knows their status and is on viral medications, the possibility of passing on the virus is 1%.
15 - 16% of Caucasian Northern Europeans are immune to HIV. As a result of a rare mutation, which is believed to be due to their being descendants from survivors of the bubonic plague, some people from northern Europe have an elimination of receptors on their CD4 cells, making the virus float and harder to get into the system.
These are just some things for you to keep in mind regarding how HIV works, how it can be treated, and how you can prevent it. For more information visit your nearest health center or visit UNAIDS.
Pictures by @UNAIDS
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