December is not just about the holidays and eating too much. It is also a month of reflection, counting our blessings and setting the groundwork for healthy and perhaps, life-saving, New Years resolutions. It is then near perfect that December is also AIDS Awareness Month, a month when we remember, honor and continue to fight one of the gravest health epidemics of the modern world.
While great strides have been made in AIDS treatment thanks to massive research efforts, which have reduced overall transmission rates, for young adults, HIV/AIDS still remains one of the most serious health threats. This group, which includes all of the young students around the country, is experiencing the fastest rising rates of HIV infection in comparison to any other age group.
New data from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), indicates that AIDS transmission is on the rise among young adults ages 20 to 24 and among young boys. As the treatments in treating AIDS have greatly improved, erasing the automatic death sentence stamp that was previously given to newly diagnosed individuals back in the 1980s and 1990s, awareness and preventive measures have consequently lagged.
Here are some very real and very alarming statistics on the current face of HIV/AIDS. Keep in mind that 2006 and 2007 are the most recent years for which statistics are available.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control approximately 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS.
- 48,400 of this 1.1 million are young people with HIV.
- AIDS rates among boys age 15 to 19 increased from 1.3 cases per 100,000 in 1997 to 2.5 cases in 2006.
- From 2006 to 2007, cases of AIDS among American teenagers increased by 16 percent.
- In the same time period, cases of AIDS among adults ages 20 to 24 increased by over 20 percent.
HIV is the virus which causes AIDS. It was first identified back in the 1981 when gay men became acutely sick and later died when their immune system could no longer ward off infection. The illness was erroneously attributed to some form of a rare cancer, but this belief was soon corrected once research was conducted on the virus itself. Since then, great strides in how the virus lives and thrives and treatment measures have been developed. Today, while AIDS is still a very serious health condition, more and more people are living with AIDS than ever before.
To protect yourself against AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, follow these safe practices.
- Be safe. Always use condoms or practice abstinence.
- Get tested regularly. Most campuses offer anonymous or confidential STD testing, including HIV/AIDS testing.
- Talk to your partner about their sexual history and be open about your’s.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and drugs, which can impair judgement and lead to unprotected sex.
- Don’t share needles, syringes, eyedroppers or cookers, if you use drugs.
It doesn’t take much to prevent HIV/AIDS, but it also doesn’t take much to contract it.
Do your part and make one of your 2010 New Year’s resolutions be to protect yourself. Your life depends on it.