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Hi! My name is Segilola and I'm a Nigerian-American blogger based in Detroit. I document my love of art, travel, style, books, movies, social justice issues, yoga, and Detroit. I hope you enjoy this window into my life! 

World AIDS Day 2015: Rethink HIV

World AIDS Day 2015: Rethink HIV

 
Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

With the recent news of Charlie Sheen's HIV positive status it was disheartening to see how much of a stigma HIV/AIDS still holds in 2015. Today with proper treatment people living with HIV live fuller, longer, and healthier lives. Even though there have been significant medical gains in how HIV is treated, socially people still think about HIV as if it were 1981 when the first cases were reported and not much was known about the virus. The stigma, prejudice and discrimination attached to how HIV is thought and talked about has an adverse impact on how people living with HIV think about themselves and seek treatment and support.

December 1st is World AIDS Day, an annual international day dedicated to raising awareness, about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. Worldwide government and health officials as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.  I recently started volunteering at Unified, formerly known as AIDS Partnership Michigan, the state's leading AIDS organization dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV. They offer a range of HIV related services statewide and in Detroit which include testing, counseling, direct care, prevention, and outreach activities. They also answer any questions about testing and access to services and resources on an anonymous hotline. 

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Facts about HIV/AIDS

  • HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus which if left untreated (up to 5-10 years or more) can lead to AIDS which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
  • HIV affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, if left untreated, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease.
  • With proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. It involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day.
  • Today, a person who diagnosed with HIV before the disease is far advanced and who gets and stays on ART can live a nearly normal life span.
  • AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage.
  • AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
  • An opportunistic infection is an illness that can occur due a weakened immune system. They are known as ‘opportunistic infections’ because they take the opportunity of the immune system being weak.
  • You can also be diagnosed with AIDS if you develop one or more opportunistic infections, regardless of your CD4 count.

 

  • The most effective transmitters of HIV are blood, semen, vaginal/cervical secretions and breast milk.
  • The 2 most important precautions to avoid HIV are the use of a protective barrier if there is risk of contact with blood and the use of a latex condom during sexual intercourse.
  • For injecting drug users it is important not to share needles.
  • Despite the homophobic stigma the virus carries 70-89% of HIV infections worldwide have been transmitted through heterosexual sex.
  • That being said in the U.S. gay and bisexual, particularly young black/African American gay and bisexual men, are most seriously affected by HIV.

 

  • It is possible for people living with HIV to enter relationships after their diagnosis.
  • There are medications available to people who are HIV-negative to prevent HIV infection. PrEP or Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a pill which is taken daily which two medicines that are also used to treat HIV. If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body.
  • There is also PEP, Post-Exposure prophylaxis, which is a month long course of medication that must be taken within 3 days of after exposure to HIV to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive.

 

  • Worldwide there are 35 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS.
  • 3.2 of which are children under the age of 15.
  • The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low and middle income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • An estimated 39 million people have died since the first cases were reported in 1981.
  • The WHO cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to get tested, disclose their HIV status and take antiretroviral drugs.
  • One study found that participants who reported high levels of stigma were over four times more likely to report poor access to care. This contributes to the expansion of the global HIV epidemic and a higher number of AIDS-related deaths.

Sources for Information

  • https://www.aids.gov/
  • http://miunified.org/Home
  • http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/#
  • http://www.avert.org/
  • http://www.who.int/hiv/en/
  • http://www.stigmaindex.org/about-index
  • http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/stigma-discrimination
  • http://mic.com/articles/128718/how-to-talk-about-hiv#.odHQv6x4v
  • https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/pre-exposure-prophylaxis/
  • https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/post-exposure-prophylaxis/index.html
  • https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/mixed-status-couples/index.html
  • http://www.worldaidsday.org/campaign/rethink-hiv

There are plenty of other resources available to learn more about testing, lowering one's sexual risk for HIV and other STDs, and support. There are also many opportunities to volunteer and getting involved with organizations that are working to raise awareness, outreach and provide information on preventing HIV/STDs.

Judgment, prejudice and discrimination have lead to HIV becoming a global pandemic. No matter who you are or what you've experienced, we all appreciate and need one another's support! 

Thank you so much for visiting! 

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