During my first year of university, I decided to join the Youth Stop AIDS Society. HIV and AIDS was something that had rarely crossed my mind but I signed up anyway and soon went to my first meeting.
As a society we campaigned and raised awareness, and I learnt so much about access to medications, the realities of living with HIV and that AIDS is actually an illness that could be eradicated sooner than we think (By 2030 if we work at it hard enough!)
Today is World AIDS Day and this year it’s all about ending isolation, stigma and most importantly ending HIV transmission.
To help in the fight to end stigma, here are some things that are important to know about HIV and AIDS.
HIV and AIDS aren’t the same thing.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. A person is considered to have AIDS when the virus affects the immune system to a point where it can no longer fight off diseases which it would ordinarily be able to.
The early symptoms of HIV can be hard to spot.
These include fever, headache, weight loss, flu-like symptoms. Most people with HIV with experience these symptoms within the first three months of contracting the virus.
HIV isn’t a death sentence.
HIV treatments are so advanced that most people with the virus will live just as long as those without it. However, an early diagnosis is crucial in getting the right treatment and stopping the virus from damaging your body, so if you’re worried that you might have contracted the virus, see a doctor.
“I’m not gay, I won’t get HIV.”
Although gay men make up a huge proportion of people living with HIV in the UK, anyone can get HIV. If you have unprotected sex with anyone of any gender who has HIV, you are at risk.
Ways you can and can’t get HIV
HIV is passed on through bodily fluids and through sharing infected needles or syringes. It can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.
HIV is not passed on through kissing, sharing drinks, toothbrushes or touching someone with the virus.
There is still a huge amount of stigma around HIV and AIDs but through education and awareness, hopefully we will one day live in a world without AIDS.
Check out worldaidsday.org for more information and how you can get involved.