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Know Your Status on this WORLD AIDS DAY

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

As many of us know that today (1 December) is World Aids Day and the theme of this year is the Know Your Status (KYS). 

December 1 marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Launched in 1988, the annual observance highlights worldwide efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is also an occasion to show support for those living with HIV and to remember those who have died from the infection. 

To mark the 30th anniversary of the world's first global health day, here are 30 frequently asked questions (FAQs), myths, facts and figures surrounding HIV and AIDS throughout the world. 

1. What do HIV and AIDS stand for? - HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

2. What's the difference between HIV and AIDS? - HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS. AIDS is the last of the three stages of HIV infection.

3. How do you know if you have HIV or AIDS? -Testing is the best way to determine whether you have HIV, but symptoms can occur before HIV shows up on a test. Some experience flu-like symptoms – including fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes or mouth ulcers – within two weeks of infection.

4. How does HIV make you sick?-HIV attacks your immune system by reducing CD4 cells, or T cells, making it harder to fight other infections."Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease," according to HIV.gov.

5. How is the virus transmitted?-A the person can become infected with HIV only through certain activities in which they come into contact with certain bodily fluids.

6. Can saliva or mosquitoes spread HIV?-No? HIV cannot be passed on through saliva, sweat or tears unless blood from a person with HIV is mixed in. That means touching, sharing bathrooms, kissing and other activities won't spread the virus. Bugs such as mosquitoes and ticks also can't spread it.

7. Can HIV be transmitted by giving blood?-The CDC says contracting HIV in a health care setting is "extremely rare." During the early years of the HIV crisis in the 1980s, cases of infection by blood transfusion were more common, according to HIV.gov, but "rigorous testing" today has greatly reduced the risk.

8. Can you get HIV again if you already have HIV?-Yes? HIV superinfection occurs when a person with HIV is infected with a different strain of the virus, according to the CDC. Effects vary, and some people can contract a strain that is resistant to the treatment they're already taking, the CDC says, but "a hard-to-treat superinfection is rare."

9. How many people around the world have HIV?-According to the United Nations, 36.9 million people were living with HIV around the world in 2017. Of those, 35.1 million were adults and 1.8 million were children. The CDC estimates that 1.1 million people in the United States were living with HIV by the end of 2015. Fifteen percent didn't know they were infected.

10. How many people were newly infected with HIV in 2017?-Worldwide, 1.8 million people, according to the United Nations. In the United States, 38,739 people were diagnosed with HIV, according to the CDC.

11. How many people died last year from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses?-Worldwide, 940,000 people, the United Nations says. In the United States, 15,807 people with an HIV diagnosis died in 2016. The CDC says those deaths could be from any cause.

12. How have the numbers of cases and deaths changed since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began?-Since the epidemic began, 77.3 million people have been infected with HIV and 35.4 million have died from

13. When did the HIV/AIDS epidemic begin?-U.S. scientists found the first clinical evidence for the disease that would become known as AIDS in 1981, according to the United Nations. Chimpanzees in Central Africa have been identified as the source of HIV in humans. Their version of the virus, called SIV, was likely transmitted to humans and then mutated, the CDC says. HIV has existed in the United States since the mid- to late 1970s.

14. Have cases increased amid the opioid crisis?-Concern is growing that opioid users sharing needles could cause an increase in HIV cases.

15. Are some demographics more at risk than others?-Gay and bisexual men are the most affected population in the United States, the CDC says.

16. What stigmas exist surrounding HIV/AIDS?-Fear around HIV and AIDS has allowed false information to spread and discrimination against some people to grow.

17. Can HIV/AIDS be treated?-Yes. People with HIV can take a series of drugs, called antiretroviral therapy, or ART, that slows the virus from progressing, keeps them healthy for years and drastically reduces their likelihood of spreading the virus, the CDC says.

18. How does ART work?-Antiretroviral therapy, which typically uses three drugs, is aimed at reducing a person's viral load – the level of HIV in the blood.

19. What is the average life expectancy with treatment today?-An HIV or AIDS diagnosis 30 years ago often meant one to two more years of life, according to HIV.gov. With treatment, that's changed.

20. Is there a cure?-Not yet. Researchers are working toward a cure. If a cure were to be found, it'd likely take one of two forms, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

21. Who is Timothy Brown?-Volunteers unfurl a section of the AIDS memorial quilt on the lawn of the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., in observance of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2009.

22. Is there a vaccine?-No, but there have been a number of developments. The National Institutes of Health opened the first clinical trial with 138 healthy, HIV-negative volunteers in 1987, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

23. What are some common prevention methods?-The CDC advises abstinence from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and using condoms correctly every time you have sex as ways to reduce the risk of HIV exposure through sex. Using only sterile needles, and never sharing them, also reduce risk. 

24. What is PrEP and how effective is it?-Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is daily medicine for HIV-negative people who are at high risk of getting HIV. According to the CDC, it can reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex by 90 percent and through injection by 70 percent. PrEP is not a vaccine and should not be used instead of condoms and sterile needles, the CDC warns.

25. What is PEP and how effective is it?-Post-exposure prophylaxis is for an emergency: Possible exposure in the past 72 hours. "The sooner you start PEP, the better," the CDC says. "Every hour counts."

26. Should I get tested for HIV?-Peter Njane, a Kenyan homosexual man and the Director of the homosexual rights group Ishtar, smiles at the group's booth during an event organized by... Show more

27. How do I get tested?-Most HIV tests involve blood or oral fluid. Clinics, hospitals, community health centers and many other locations provide HIV testing. Home testing equipment is also available.

28. What is World AIDS Day?-The World Health Organization first declared World AIDS Day in 1988. It was the first global health day. Observed each year on Dec. 1, the day is intended to raise global awareness of the fight against HIV, support for people with HIV and remember those who have died from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.

29. How can I help on World AIDS day?-Donating money for various organizations fighting HIV/AIDS, attending a World AIDS Day event or simply showing solidarity by wearing a red ribbon are all ways to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

30. What do the red ribbons signify?-The red ribbon was created in 1991 by artists in New York working to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS. The artists saw the red ribbon as an easy-to-copy way to show compassion for those living with HIV, given the stigma surrounding it.

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