December 1st marked World AIDS day as a day to bring awareness to the international AIDS crisis. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, which is the next phase of the human immunodeficiency virus, also known as HIV. According to the World Health Organization, in the last three decades, over 34 million lives have been claimed by HIV-related causes.1. Globally, there are approximately 36.9 people living with HIV1. In the US, around 1.2 million people are living with HIV and 1 in 8 does not know it2.
Transmission can happen in three main ways: exchange of vaginal fluids or semen during unprotected sex (oral, anal, or vaginal); exchange of blood through contaminated needles, syringes, and medical equipment; and mother to child transmission in breast milk and during childbirth. Preventing HIV transmission can happen at three critical times: before exposure, during exposure, and after exposure to the high risk activities previously listed. In Indiana, HIV numbers increased in areas such as Scott County as access to testing centers and clean needle exchange programs declined. As of November 2015, 181 people have tested positive for HIV in this area 3.
Prevention Before High-Risk Activity
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine, consistently taken by folks at high risk for potential HIV transmission
- Antiretroviral treatment (ART), given during pregnancy to lower chance of transmission from HIV carrier to child
- Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision to reduce the risk of transmission from women with HIV to men without HIV
Prevention During High-Risk Activity
- Condoms (internal or external) during oral or penetrative sexual activity
- Sterilized needles to prevent transmission from shared or reused needles
Prevention After High-Risk Activity
- Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medicine, taken within 72 hours of potential exposure
- Antiretroviral treatment (ART) to reduce the risk of transmission from partner with HIV to partner without HIV
Despite a 35% decrease in new cases since 2000 our work is far from over. Through greater access to treatment, evidence-based sex education, and prevention method improvements, communities around the globe continue their efforts to bring HIV/AIDs to an end.
1HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet. (2015, July 1).
2World AIDS Day 2015. (2015, October 28).
3Indiana State Department of Health (2015, November 6)