HIV is the acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. AIDS, on the other hand, is the aftermath of HIV infection and can end in death at its terminal stage. HIV has become a global epidemic, moving through nations and continents like a wildfire in summer. As of today on a worldwide scale, more than 36.7 million humans are HIV-positive with 2.1 million of them being children. Every day, 5,000 persons get infected with HIV. That is quite alarming!
HIV/AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease which was first observed in the United States in 1981, the origin thought to have emerged in Central/Southern Africa much earlier. In 2015, 1.1 million persons died of HIV globally and cumulatively, 35.0 million deaths from HIV have been recorded from the time of its discovery up till 2017. In 2016, an estimated 1.8 million persons globally, became newly infected. 16,000 of them were children under 15 years of age.
According to UNAIDS in 2016, approximately 70% of persons living with HIV around this world are aware of their status while as much as over 11 million others (30%) are yet to know because they have not accessed HIV testing services. Knowing one's status is important for HIV prevention, treatment, and comprehensive healthcare services.
The Menace of HIV on the US
- An estimated 1.1 million people are infected with HIV in the USA.
- 85% of them are aware of their status, but
- the other 15% left are unaware that they have been infected.
- Every year, 37,600 persons are infected with HIV in the country.
- States in the southern US accounted for more than half of new HIV infection diagnosis in 2016.
- 45% of those that have HIV live in southern states.
- Gay men and other men who have sex with men are the most affected population.
- In the US alone, more than 692,790 persons have died of HIV/AIDS since its inception till date.
The CDC in 2014, reported that the number of men who have sex with men without using condoms for anal sex is increasing, giving rise to the increase in HIV/AIDS cases among them.
Considering race and ethnicity, African Americans or blacks are the most affected than any other race or ethnicity in the US.
- 44% of all new infections constitute persons of African American/black descent.
- Between 2011 and 2015, 25-34-year-old African American/black men who have sex with men remained the worst hit group even though there was a general decline in HIV diagnosis by 8% among African American/black people at that time.
Following closely in race and ethnicity are Hispanic/Latino people in the US.
- 24% of all new infections are Latino.
- The men among them accounted for 87% of new yearly HIV infections.
- The most affected men were men who have sex with men without condoms.
The prevalence of HIV in the US is more among prisoners than among the general population.
- In 2010 alone, 20,093 prisoners in the US were living with HIV.
- 91% of them were men who mostly got theirs before being imprisoned.
Young people are not exempted too.
- Teens and those up to the age of 24 made up 22% of new infections in 2015, many of who are boys/men who have sex with boys/men.
- It is suggested that persons in this age group have the highest rate of undiagnosed HIV.
The above statistic could be because young people hardly get themselves screened for HIV. Generally, it is estimated that 30% of new HIV infections are spread by people who are not aware of their HIV status.
To combat HIV, the United States approved the first HIV home test kit in 2012 and this is meant to enhance easy and quality access to HIV testing. A 2017 report by UNAID and WHO on HIV Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Self-Testing showed that about 1.1 million have been sold in the country. Though such is the case, only 54% of Americans have ever gotten themselves screened for the infection. Caucasians report less of being tested than other races and ethnicity.
Presently, annual HIV testing is recommended for all persons 15-65 years of age, for pregnant women, and for every person who is at a high risk of contracting the virus. The testing comes at no cost.
Reasons people fail to get screened include:
- Fear of HIV-related stigmatization
- Low socioeconomic status
- The perception that they cannot get infected
- Poor sex education
The key to effectively battling against HIV is getting tested. By doing so, the risk of its spread is reduced. Using home test kits destroys every barrier provided by stigmatization meaning that you can comfortably order for one from the comfort of your home and it can be delivered to your doorsteps with no hassles. Finally, it is way cheaper than the problems HIV/AIDS brings about.