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

. It’s possible you may not think a lot about HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) here in our small rural community, but its here. It has touched someone’s life somehow. It’s everywhere. Assuming that by some miracle our little corner of the earth has been spared would be simply naive. The fight against HIV/AIDS does not have boundaries. It crosses all physical locations, races, creeds, sexual orientations and religious beliefs. Getting good health information to the public is a responsibility public health officials take 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. We can fight dangerous and even life threatening ignorance 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: • 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. 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 disease exclusive to the homosexual community or one particular race. 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 to a police officer or other emergency worker at the scene of a crime or accident. A roaming husband or wife may contract the virus and bring it home to their spouse. A new sexual partner may be unknowingly infected by a past partner. Victims of rape and other violent crime all to often find themselves HIV positive. It’s important to note here that 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.  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.  Read more at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/ It doesn’t always take a a college degree or a doctor to help fight AIDS. It takes a voice. Each of us has one of those. Use yours to help separate fact from fiction. Know the facts about HIV and you will be able to make safe, sane decisions about your own life and help others do the same. Spread the truth. Ignorance will never cure disease. Be part of the cure.