There are over one million people living with HIV in the United States today. Approximately one in every seven people do not know they have the disease. The solution to stop the spread is to get tested.
The earliest case of HIV was confirmed in 1968. Robert Rayford, a Midwestern 16-year-old boy, had tested positive for the virus. It is believed that before the 1980s, approximately 100,000 to 300,000 people became infected with HIV, many of whom did not know they were infected. The reason? AIDS was presenting with other immunodeficiency conditions, making it hard to identify.
By 1984, there were a total of over 3,000 cases of AIDS in the U.S. Of those cases, close to 1,300 people died. In 1994, AIDS became the leading cause of deaths in adults aged 25-44. African Americans made up close to half of AIDS-related deaths.
When something new is presented, certain myths and stereotypes are created based off opinions instead of facts. When the HIV epidemic first occurred, people only thought the “4 H club” could become infected. This list included hemophiliacs, homosexual men, heroin users, and people of Haitian descent. In the years to follow, there were many reports of discrimination against those infected with HIV. These included a doctor being treated with eviction (first AIDS lawsuit) to schools not letting children with HIV attend.
Of course, with more research and knowledge, these stereotypes would be proven untrue. HIV does not discriminate in age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. The virus can be spread through unprotected sex, sharing of needles for drug use, and even through birth.
Thanks to multi-drug therapy becoming available, the United States began to see a decrease in the number of death rates. HAART, highly active antiretroviral therapy, was a new treatment introduced in 1997. HART treatment has cut down death rates by 47%.
In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first rapid HIV diagnostic test. This test allows more to be tested at a faster rate to help stop the spread.
PrEP and Other Medications
In 2012, the FDA approved PrEP, a medication used to decrease the risk of infection with HIV from sexual activity or needle use. The medication is shown to reduce “the risk for HIV infection by greater than 90%.”
Since 1995, there has been an 80% decrease in the death rate thanks to PrEP, ART, and the HIV diagnostic test.
The fight against HIV/AIDS is not over with many lives left to fight for. Through knowledge, research, treatment, and prevention, the raise of awareness will continue!