Although AIDS has become a household term, I am surprised to learn how little people know about this disease. Through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, AIDS.gov, "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). By killing or damaging cells of the body's immune system, HIV progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers. Over one million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS today. Worldwide, the figure is over 33 million."
Here in the United States, the United Nations is often criticized for its inability to prevent wars and genocides like those we are witnessing in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has the necessary infrastructure to promote HIV/AIDS education to vulnerable populations, which are often found in developing or emerging markets. According to UNAIDS, "HIV prevention services were only reaching 20% of people in need in 2005, while coverage for key populations at higher risk of exposure to HIV were considerably lower."
UNAIDS further claims, "Effective HIV prevention programming focuses on the critical relationships between the epidemiology of HIV infection, the risk behaviors that expose to HIV transmission, and also addresses the collective social and institutional factors, such as sexual norms, gender inequality, and HIV related stigma, that will otherwise continue to fuel HIV epidemic." We must continue to fight this disease through effective education strategies and industrialized countries should lead by example by providing the necessary funding to support UNAIDS' efforts and implement effective national strategies in their respective country.
To commemorate World AIDS Day, please educate yourself and talk with your friends and family members about the facts of HIV/AIDS including proven prevention techniques. According to AIDS.gov, "The transmission of HIV occurs through three well documented means: 1) having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV; 2) sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV; and 3) being exposed (fetus or infant) to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding....HIV is not transmitted through day-to-day activities such as shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. You also cannot get HIV from mosquitoes."
UNAIDS identifies three simple prevention techniques:
- Use latex condoms, which when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing sexual transmission of HIV and use male or female condoms correctly each time you have sex;
- Avoid injecting drugs, or if you choose to inject drugs, always use new and disposable needles and syringes; and
- Ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV and that blood safety standards are implemented.
Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.