You never know who has HIV; your neighbor, your boss, or even your friend. In order to prevent further misconceptions about HIV it is important that everyone around the world understands the real truth.
Roosevelt University recently held a day-long event that highlighted the need for HIV awareness on Nov. 28 in order to gear up for World AIDS Day that was held on Dec. 1.
Students participated in writing letters to Congress that request the government to protect the International Affairs Budget, which helps fund other countries’ fights against HIV. There was also free confidential HIV testing, an HIV prevention presentation and an HIV community panel of local advocates for the fight against HIV.
According to the CDC, “HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers.” Once the immune system is weak it leads to AIDS, which is the third stage of HIV.
In helping the prevention of HIV, education is one of the most important steps. The CDC also said as of 2018, there are currently 1.1 million people in America living with HIV and 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV.
According to Grace Geremias, who is a member of Asian Human Services and held the HIV prevention presentation, one in seven Americans may have HIV and not know it.
“Which is why education is so important. People living with HIV without knowing have it, can possibly develop AIDS because of a lack of treatment. HIV is a virus that is manageable, there has yet to be a cure, but there is treatment for it,” Geremias said.
HIV has a lot of stigma surrounding it that education helps to decrease. There is a lot of misinformation as to how HIV is spread. Geremias discussed how exactly one can contract HIV: through sexual contact, sharing needles and mother to baby. There are five bodily fluids that HIV can spread through: blood, seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids and breast milk.
HIV is not spread through swimming in the same water, other bodily fluids such as saliva, tears or sweat, nor is it spread through insects, pets or sharing toilets or drinks. By knowing the real ways HIV is contracted, there is less stigma for those who are living with it.
But living with HIV is no longer a death sentence like it used to be, according to panelist Michael Jones, from the HIV Community Panel, who has been testing patients for HIV for years.
“HIV is something people live with. With medication you will be fine.” People living with HIV who are taking medication can actually live fairly normal lives. “It is a life-changing event, not a life ending event,” Jones said.
By supporting World AIDS day and holding this event, Roosevelt University was able to help educate students on why it is important to know the truth about HIV and why it is important to advocate for those who are living with HIV around the world.