According to amfAR, nearly 37 million people in the world live with HIV, and almost half of them are women. In fact, for women in their reproductive years (ages 15 – 49), HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death around the globe. Still, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions about the disease, which is the most feared and most misunderstood sexually transmitted infection. To commemorate World AIDS Day, here are some things about HIV/AIDS that you probably didn’t know about:
1. There Are Two Strains Of HIV
There are two different types of HIV viruses: HIV-1 and HIV-2. The former is more infectious, while the latter has a lower infection rate. HIV and AIDS are also not the same thing, but they are interrelated. HIV is the strand of virus that causes the disease and AIDS is the fourth and final stage of the disease that leads to the patient’s death.
2. Science Has Not Yet Discovered An All Out Cure
But they’re getting close! A new drug is on the market that can help prevent contraction of the HIV virus. “PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a single pill and when it’s taken every day it can help stop the HIV virus from “taking hold” and spreading if and when you’re exposed. While antiretrovirals have changed the course of the treatment, and are very effective, nothing is 100 per cent effective yet.
3. Some People May Be Immune To HIV
Over the last two decades, scientists have discovered that there are in fact people who are immune to the disease and were able to fight it off for decades. This immunity has been traced to a certain type of immune cell known as CD8+T. These cells attack and inject poison into any AIDS-infected cells they find. Now that scientists have been made aware of this, they hope to understand how they work and finally create a usable vaccine.
(Read more: 10 Ways To Boost Your Immunity)
4. It's Harder To Spread Than You Think
Simply interacting with someone with HIV or AIDS won’t put you at risk of infection. Neither will:
● Breathing the same air.
● Using the same eating utensils or gym equipment.
● Touching a toilet seat, toothbrush or door knob.
● Sharing a drinking glass or water fountain.
● Hugging, kissing, shaking hands or touching someone with HIV or AIDS.
Only certain fluids from a person with HIV — blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk — can transmit HIV.
5. Cats May Hold The Key To Vaccination
It seems cats might deserve the upgrade to man’s best friend because they might just hold the key to the curing to HIV. Cats suffer from a very similar disease known as FIV, which has been extensively researched. Scientists have discovered an FIV vaccination, and are hoping this could lead to a breakthrough in treating HIV infected patients.
6. HIV Infection Is Disproportionate
95 per cent of the world’s HIV-infected population lives in the world’s poorest countries, indicating a definite correlation between poverty, lack of education, lesser development and the contraction of the disease. The Sub-Saharan region of Africa has the largest population of HIV-infected people. The numbers are estimated at anywhere between 21.6 and 27.4 million people and out of them 2 to 3 million are children younger than 15 years of age.
(Read more: Boost Your Immunity With These 5 Foods)
7. 1 In 8 People Don't Even Know They Have The Disease
Of more than 1.2 million people in the US living with HIV, 1 in 8 of them don’t know it, which is why regular testing and practicing safe sex is so important. If you’ve made the decision to stop using protection with a partner, go get tested together. Even if you’ve known them your whole life, if they’ve had sex with anyone else previously, there’s always the chance that they could be infected. Know your status, know your partner’s status!
8. There Was Once A HIV-Infected Comic Character
In 1988, DC Comics introduced a villain named “Hemo-Goblin” The HIV-positive vampire was created by a group of white supremacists and used to infect minorities. Not surprisingly, Hemo-Goblin wasn’t much of a fan favorite and the character appeared in only one issue of The New Guardians.
9. The HIV Virus Is Molecularly Hard To Eradicate
The HIV virus is fairly large in size. To add to this, it has a unique structure that gives it an advantage over all other viruses, thereby making it difficult to kill. This is especially due to its ability to quickly attach to a host cell.
HIV is also known as a mutant super virus thanks to its incredibly fast replication system that helps it mutate faster. This makes it easier for the virus to become immune to antiretrovirals.
(Read more: 10 Health Check-Ups Your Husband Needs)
10. HIV Infection Is Not A Death Sentence
As the most stigmatised sexually transmitted infection, HIV/AIDS is often the source of misplaced fear and an outdated reputation for being synonymous with a death sentence. We’re living in a completely new era of being HIV positive. It’s not like it was at the beginning of the epidemic when it was a death sentence. There are side effects to taking the drugs, but by and large, you’re as healthy as your friends.