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HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to AIDS. Because it was only discovered three decades ago, and a lot has changed since then, there are many misconceptions.
“Can I get HIV from kissing?”
“I thought only gay men got it.”
Here are a few things to know about HIV in the US today.
People of every age, gender, race, and sexual orientation get HIV.
“I got HIV from my girlfriend. She didn’t know.”
“I was born with HIV.”
“Honestly, I’m not sure how I got it.”
But HIV does disproportionately affect some groups, such as African Americans and Latinos, men who have sex with men, transgender women, injection drug users, sex workers, and people in jail or prison.
“Stigma made it harder to get tested, which made it more likely I infected someone else.”
“I’m young, gay, and black. I know I’m at high risk, so I’m extra careful.”
The annual average for new HIV infections is going down, but it’s still going up for some demographics.
“This is not a way these communities are failing, it’s a way we are failing them.”
“We have the tools we need to end this epidemic, but we need to target high-risk populations with education and services!”
With early detection and treatment, HIV does not significantly reduce life expectancy.
“When I learned I had HIV, I thought my life was over.”
“I take one pill a day and see the doctor twice a year. I’m lucky to have minimal side effects.”
“I’m 60. I’m pretty happy, pretty healthy, and hoping I still have a few years left.”
But only a third of people with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy, and one in five don’t even know that they are infected.
When an HIV infection is virally suppressed, the chance of transmission approaches zero.
“I’m HIV positive and virally suppressed.”
“I’m HIV negative and diligent about condoms.”
People who don’t have HIV can also significantly lower their risk of contracting the virus by taking a daily pill (called PrEP) or taking medication after possible exposure (PEP).
“I know my behaviors put me at a slightly higher risk, so I take PrEP to give me piece of mind.”
“My doctor recommended I take PEP after a sexual assault.”
HIV can be spread through blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluid, and breast milk. It can not be spread through spit or sweat, casual touching, water fountains, or toilet seats.
“I don’t care what gay guys do with each other, I just don’t want to catch anything!”
“You’re worried about nothing, and you’re being a jerk.”
There’s no vaccine or cure for HIV.
“But we’re optimistic about creating some in the future!”
“We’re learning new things all the time!”
“And coming out with new options for prevention and treatment every year!”