Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS in the later stages of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one million people in the United States are infected with HIV/AIDS, and about a quarter of those people don’t know they’re infected. Approximately 39.5 million people are infected with HIV worldwide. With those high numbers, it’s important that everyone knows how HIV spreads and how to avoid contracting the virus.
- HIV attacks the immune system by destroying white blood cells that fight off disease. Once HIV has weakened the immune system to the point where the body can’t fight off infection, the infection advances to its final stage: AIDS. It can take years for the body to arrive at this stage. People infected with HIV/AIDS usually die of other so-called “opportunistic” diseases and cancers that the body can no longer fight off.
- HIV lives in the blood and semen or vaginal fluid of the infected person. This is why the most common ways of transmitting HIV is through vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. The second most common way of transmitting HIV is through the sharing of needles and syringes. Lastly, HIV can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding. Because HIV is carried in the infected person’s blood, the virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ and tissue transplants, and shared needles. HIV is not transmitted through handshaking, hugging, contact with a toilet seat, touching a doorknob, or casual contact, and HIV cannot live outside the body for long.
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German pop singer Nadja Benaissa was arrested Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany, for allegedly having unprotected sex with three men without telling them she is HIV positive. One of the men has tested positive for the virus. In Germany, the law says that anyone convicted of knowingly infecting a person with HIV faces a prison sentence of between six months and 10 years for “grievous bodily harm.” If the victim dies, the sentence can be even greater — up to life imprisonment for manslaughter.
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March is National Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a lady we admire each weekday. Since today is the last day of this awesome month, we’ll be going out with a bank, spotlight FIVE women who rock.
MARVELYN BROWN (1984- )
Marvelyn Brown probably never expected to make it to “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Tavis Smiley Show” and “The Tyra Banks Show.” Early in life, she may not have thought she was going to be featured in Newsweek, Ebony, and Fortune. No doubt she wishes she was featured worldwide for a different reason other than having HIV, but her strength to speak out is admirable.
What makes Brown an amazing woman is not all of the media attention. It’s not about having a book out called The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive. What makes her amazing is that on July 17, 2003, when she found out she was HIV positive at the age of 19, she immediately reached for her cell phone to notify all of her sexual partners. It’s difficult enough to digest that kind of news, but from her hospital bed she took responsibility for it. Keep reading »
“[The AIDS epidemic in Africa] is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems…. It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality…. The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.” — Pope Benedict XVI
While it’s to be expected that the Catholic Church continues to have a conservative outlook on abortion and premarital sex, the fact the Pope is still unwilling to get behind the use of contraception to stop the spread of AIDS surprises (and appalls) many — especially as he embarks on a tour of Sub-Saharan Africa, where 22 million (that’s 67%) of the global total of 32.9 million people with HIV live. Nearly three quarters of AIDS deaths in 2007 were in the region. I wasn’t raised Catholic, so this doesn’t have any impact on my faith in God or whatever, but I do wonder how Catholics feel when Church leaders still take such a conservative position on this vital issue. Readers please share in the comments! [Guardian U.K.] Keep reading »
Sexually-active people aged 50 and older face a greater risk of HIV infection, according to a study published by the World Health Organization. People in this age group are more likely to engage in unprotected sex than younger people — after all, after menopause, she can’t get pregnant! — plus erectile dysfunction drugs, like Viagra, are keeping their sex lives active. But despite all this, screening by doctors for HIV is less common for older people because it’s assumed they aren’t at risk. Also, the period of time between diagnosis and the onset of AIDS is shorter because age quickens the progression of the disease and doctors don’t consider HIV as a diagnosis. The WHO also found that older women seem to have a greater risk of contracting HIV if they have unprotected sex because the vaginal mucous membrane thins with age and can get tiny tears without proper lubrication. Keep reading »
AIDS researchers are one step closer to finding another method of protection that can help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS among women. Dr. Salim Abdool Karim of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and his colleagues have tested two protective gels, one called PRO 2000 and the other called BufferGel, in trying to find a microbicide (that’s the fancy scientific word for something that reduces the chance that you’ll be infected by a virus or bacteria) that will protect women from HIV/AIDS when their partners aren’t wearing condoms. Among the 3,000 women tested, PRO 2000 reduced the rate of HIV infection by a third. “We do not regard it as a definitive conclusion that PRO 2000 is a microbicide but we certainly view it as very promising,” said Karim at a conference of AIDS experts in Montreal. Unfortunately, his team was unable to find any evidence that BufferGel helped. The study was only designed to determine whether the gels were safe, since other, similar studies revealed that gels and creams like PRO 2000 and BufferGel actually increased the likelihood of infection. [Reuters] Keep reading »
Back in the ’90s, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” commissioned an episode involving gay characters in love. The script for “Blood And Fire” was about a deathly bloodworm epidemic, a metaphor for the AIDS crisis, and it was also the first time the multi-cultural show would have included homosexuals in any of their plots. Unfortunately, although creator Gene Roddenberry wanted to include positive representations of the gay community on his show, Paramount Studios wasn’t as forward thinking. But, like communicator/cell phones, the episode featuring gay lovers didn’t get made for real, until recently. Thanks to the fan artist project “Star Trek: Phase II”, the show will boldly go gay in a webisode! Working with the original writer, David Gerrold, and his premise, the fan crew also adapted the script about Kirk’s gay nephew to deal with the topical issue of same sex marriage. You can check out the first half of the webisode tomorrow on YouTube, but if you just want to see the sexy parts, check out the video above. [io9] Keep reading »
Today, December 1, marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the day when individuals and organizations from around the world work together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic. In 1988, AIDS was causing more deaths in the United States than there were in the Vietnam War and an estimated five to 10 million people were infected worldwide, according to the World AIDS Campaign. However, government, media and society, in general, were not giving AIDS the attention it needed. World AIDS Day began in 1988 when health ministers around the world met and agreed that there should be a day when all would come together to show the importance of AIDS and demonstrate solidarity for the cause. Since then, many positive changes have been made in the fight against AIDS, however much more needs to be done. Leadership is the theme for 2007 and 2008 World AIDS Day because it encourages leaders at all levels of society to stop AIDS. And leadership highlights the discrepancies between what has been promised and what has actually been done to halt the spread of the disease. Governments have to make good on promises. Communities must encourage leadership of its members. And individuals must have access to treatment, know their rights, stamp out the stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS, and must know and engage in methods of prevention against spreading the disease. Keep reading »