Welcome back! Last week we talked about alcohol and it’s effects on our livers. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week we are going to tackle the subject of HIV/AIDS. Many people would tell you that it’s a disease that only affects gay men, or that it’s “over” and we’ve passed the crisis mark. Some even think it was eradicated. It wasn’t. In fact, the CDC reports that “An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States had HIV at the end of 2016, the most recent year for which this information is available. Of those people, about 14%, or 1 in 7, did not know they had HIV.” (photo of HIV-infected H9 T cell)
You may wonder how the CDC can come up with statistics that aren’t even reported. After all, if you don’t know you have HIV, then how can you report it? I wondered the same thing, so I did the research for both of us.
Here’s what I found: “The CDC estimates the number of people living with HIV (called prevalence) by using a scientific model. This model helps CDC estimate the number of new HIV infections and how many people are infected but don’t know it. HIV prevalence is the number of people with HIV infection at a given time, such as at the end of a given year. More information on HIV prevalence pdf icon[PDF – 2 MB].”
So now we know it’s out there. Who are the people contracting HIV? Is it really just gay men, IV drug users, or both? The answer is NOPE. Thanks to the CDC, we also have this lovely graph to help us wrap our head around the answer.
Wow. A full 24%, almost a quarter of the whole, are Heterosexual people, and while you obviously can see that the gay population is still hit very hard by this virus, you can no longer say it’s a “gay disease“.
So let’s talk about the numbers. We have a breakdown for you that reveals state to state percentages of HIV diagnoses.
The hardest hit areas for new HIV diagnosis appear to be Louisiana at 22.1 for every 100k, Georgia at 24.9, and Florida coming in at 22.9.
“In 2016, there were 15,807 deaths among people with diagnosed HIV in the US. Nearly half (47%) of these deaths were in the South; 3,630 (23%) were in the Northeast; 2,604 (16%) were in the West; 1,720 (11%) were in the Midwest; and 379 (2%) were in the US dependent areas. These deaths may be due to any cause.” (CDC)
I’m sure at this point some of you are confused. You thought only gay men contracted HIV. You are asking yourself, how do “straight people” get HIV? You didn’t think this could affect you or your children, and now that you know it can, you are worried.
Don’t like to watch videos? I get it. Here’s the fast facts:
HIV doesn’t live outside of the body. The very second it hits the air, it’s dead. This is why sneezing, coughing, kissing, and sweating don’t pass the virus. Go ahead and hug your loved ones that have an HIV diagnosis. Feed them, ask them to spend the night in your guest room when they are overwhelmed. They need you.
If you are reading this blog, and you are a sexually active person, please, please, please use precautions. Use condoms and if you are at high risk of contracting HIV, use PrEP.
As of 2016, about 675,000 Men, Women, Non-Binary people, and Children have died of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. since the beginning of the HIV epidemic. With improved treatments and better prophylaxis against opportunistic infections, death rates have quite significantly declined.
If you haven’t been tested, get tested. You may be one of those walking around infected and you have no idea. Knowledge is power. Let’s keep these numbers declining, and hopefully, eventually, a full blown cure will be found.
Until then, take good care of yourselves and each other.