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The Monthly Climb December - AIDS Awareness Month



Introduction

World AIDS Day is observed as an international day in December that serves to provide solidarity for all who have been affected by HIV and other AIDS-related illnesses. The day is also dedicated to commemorating the 32 million people who have died from any of these illnesses. Both awareness and common treatment of AIDS have positively developed over the years thanks to this day of recognition, but there remains much room for progress.



A Historical Timeline of HIV/AIDS:

1981 – June 5: First official reporting of what would later be known as AIDS

1985 – January 11: CDC issues safeguards and blood screening guidelines as AIDS is recognized to be caused by HIV
1987 – March 12: ACT UP is formed as a grassroots activism campaign at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City in response to government inactivity

1992 – AIDS becomes the number one cause of death for US men aged 25-44

1995 – The CDC offers the first guidelines to protect one’s health in order to prevent contracting HIV.

1997 – AIDS-related deaths begin to significantly decline in the US due to the implementation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

2003 – President Bush founded the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to save lives and decrease the contraction of HIV across the world. This was the highest monetary commitment of any nation towards a single disease.

Present – Improvements in medicine have decreased the likelihood of fatality when HIV is contracted, but POC are still disproportionately affected.



Modern Day Developments

In the 1980s, an AIDS diagnosis meant having only a year to live. This was due to the unnoticed and untreated progression of HIV, which typically wasn’t caught until the virus had progressed into AIDS. While a cure has not been found, HIV has become increasingly more controllable. Today, the availability of testing allows for a quicker diagnosis and treatment. Early HIV medicine started with single-drug treatment, but the usage of multiple drugs drastically improved its effectiveness. The introduction of triple-drug therapy helped save lives. The downside: this treatment would require taking up to 20 pills daily. Fortunately, today’s medicine has shrunken this to as little as a single pill. Modern pills are divided into seven classes, with each class dedicated to a specific way of fighting HIV. More than 30 antiretroviral drugs are available today. Some treatments include combinations of medicine, where two or more medicines from one or more of these classes are combined into one tablet. Dolutegravir, an antiretroviral medicine, has been FDA-approved since 2013 and remains backed by the World Health Organization. Some of the benefits include its once-daily dosing and its safety. It remains in two of the first-line regimens recommended for HIV-affected adults. With this type of medicine available, the amount of HIV in one’s blood will decrease to undetectable levels. However, all medication comes with a risk of side effects. While past medication for HIV caused serious adverse effects, modern medicine’s side effects are less common. Some of these effects are serious, but most are manageable. This development in medicine has allowed those with HIV diagnoses to live full and healthy lives.




Adding Stigmas

When discussing HIV, it’s important to remember the difficulties that individuals all around the world endure after contracting this virus. In many cases, even those who have never been exposed to HIV may face discrimination from the stigmas surrounding the virus. These issues stem from negative attitudes and beliefs about those with HIV. One of the most prominent social stigmas against those with the virus is the belief that only certain groups of people can contract HIV. This ideology is most often projected upon homosexual men, dating back to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Alongside this, another misconception is the belief that those who unfortunately contract this virus deserve it due to the choices they have made. This belief often makes those who live with HIV feel as though they’ve done something wrong, when in fact anyone can contract HIV; it does not depend in any way on the choices you make. There are several stigmas surrounding HIV in the medical aspect of it as well. A common one is that HIV can be spread easily through common contact with an individual who is living with HIV. However, HIV can only be transmitted through direct contact with certain body fluids such as blood. This stigma has led to a long history of unwarranted isolation of HIV-positive people from their family, friends, and other social groups due to the fear of contraction. Another common misconception is that HIV cannot be managed and only results in death. Since the 1980s, there have been several advances in treatment options for HIV. Antiretroviral medication and therapy help slow the damage caused to the body by HIV. Since the development of this treatment, the life expectancy of people living with HIV has increased dramatically. People living with HIV can live long and healthy lives, just like everyone else.




Resources

National Institute on Drug Abuse publication of HIV/AIDS research report discussing FAQ’s like what it is, who is at risk, and how it can be prevented and treated

CDC’s publication on Aids and FAQ’s, as well as a video briefing on the subject as well as the different stages of HIV. There are also several helpful infographics.

CDC’s resources and information on how to stop HIV, working to reduce the stigma behind HIV and AIDS, and inform communities on how to prevent, test, and treat HIV.

CDC’s resources for people living with HIV. Includes links to websites and resources that concern mental health, care and treatment, and legal advice.

Elton John AIDS Foundation provides information on testing resources as well as a compiled list of resources in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Children Welfare Information Gateway’s compiled list of different programs benefiting families affected by HIV/AIDS.


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