In the United States, about one million people are currently living with HIV.

Most likely you don’t think a lot about HIV/AIDs here in our small rural community. It’s here. It’s everywhere. To assume that by some miracle The Mount Washington Valley has been spared while the rest of the world suffers is simply naive. The fight against HIV/AIDS does not have boundaries. It crosses all races, creeds, colors, sexual orientations, religions and beliefs. Getting good public health information to the public is a responsibility our government takes seriously, but correcting the misinformation we hear on a day to day level comes down to each of us. Misinformation can kill. Having mixed up or downright incorrect facts and beliefs about HIV/AIDS can cost you or someone you love their life. Let’s get our facts straight and become word warriors for the cause. We can talk about it every chance we get. We can fight ignorance and lies with truth. Before we start though, we’re going to have to face some pretty rough facts. Worldwide the numbers are staggering, but let’s start on our home soil in the United States:
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An estimated one million people are currently living with HIV in the United States, with approximately 40,000 new infections occurring each year. 70 percent of these new infections occur in men and 30 percent occur in women. 75 percent of the new infections in women are heterosexually transmitted. Half of all new infections in the United States occur in people 25 years of age or younger. (Courtesy www.until.org)

With those numbers under our belts, let’s move on to some transmission specifics. HIV is not, as you can see from the numbers above, a “gay” disease. To think that is simply a show of ignorance. The Center for Disease Control lists three primary ways HIV is transmitted. • Having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV • Sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV • Being exposed (fetus or infant) to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding Anyone can get HIV. It can happen by accident. It can happen to a police officer at the scene of a crime. It can happen in an accident. Almost anywhere there is blood there is the potential for HIV transmission when proper precautions are not taken. Since 1985 donated blood in the United States is screened for HIV. You’re highly unlikely to get HIV from a blood transfusion or by giving blood. Understanding the disease itself is a bit more complicated, but just as necessary. Even a well informed cursory understanding of the virus is better than making decisions based on hearsay or rumor. Here are some simple facts from the CDC to keep up your sleeve:  HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

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AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection. It can take many years for a person infected with HIV to develop AIDS. Having AIDS means the HIV has advanced to the point where your body can’t fight infection. Something as simple as a cold can be deadly. HIV-1 was identified in humans as early as 1959 in The Congo. The source of HIV-1 was identified in 1999 as a subspecies of chimpanzees native to west equatorial Africa, according to the CDC.

On to the next step; let’s fight ignorance with facts. When someone says that AIDS is a “gay” disease we can disprove this bit of misinformation easily. When we hear that people can get AIDS from a handshake we now understand this is clearly misinformation. By correcting these bits of wrong information we can help separate reality from rumor. The more people who know the facts, the more people will protect themselves, their family and friends and their communities from becoming a statistic. It doesn’t take a fancy badge, a college degree or a doctor to help fight AIDS. It takes a voice. Use yours to help separate fact from fiction. Spread the truth and make responsible decisions based on facts. Ignorance will never cure disease. Be part of the cure.

Maybe you, or someone you know, thinks that AIDs is “gay disease”.

I’ve heard the gay community blamed for HIV/AIDS. I’ve heard the black community blamed. Ignorance feeds hate. To say that HIV/AIDs is the fault of one community or another is simply an ignorant position. Human Immunodeficiency Virus is not a “black” or a “gay” issue. It’s a people issue.

It’s not just about the victims of HIV. The United Nations estimates that by 2010 there will be 25 million orphans because of the virus.

75% of new infections in women are heterosexually transmitted.