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HIV Prevention:
What you need to know?

by Bradford McIntyre

    Twenty three years since I first began to witness the horrific illnesses and deaths caused by HIV and still today, very few people have an understanding of HIV. The world population is ignorant about HIV! We have failed to properly educate the world on HIV. Efforts to address HIV prevention have failed miserably. In fact, in many parts of the world HIV infection, stigma and discrimination have never been as bad as it is today!

There has been insufficient time or attention given to the dispersal of proper information regarding HIV and AIDS and HIV prevention. People believe HIV infection will never happen to them and many still associate HIV/AIDS with gay people. Yet men, women and children of every race and religious or spiritual belief are being infected with HIV every day, all over the world!

- An HIV infection may cause one illness after another and a lifetime of concern for you, and you're family and friends!

- Multiple sex partners mean multiple infections can occur with the likelihood of infection with more than one HIV strain. This places an individual in greater danger of illness and or death as well as any person they infect.

In the early years we didn't know any better and people who were infected assumed it didn't matter if they had unprotected sex with someone else who was HIV positive. Now we know; not only did people become infected with other strains of HIV but an infected individual may develop resistance to all the drugs taken by the person who infected them with the disease.(Drug-resistant strain of the virus) Often leaving a person without treatment options!

- One out of every 10 Europeans newly infected with HIV has a drug-resistant strain of the virus.

- People think because we have successful antiretroviral therapies there is no need to practice safe sex or worry. They need to be aware of the risks involved and know there is no guarantee these medications will work for them!

- A person may not be able to tolerate the HIV/AIDS medications. Suffering from the side effects of the drugs and having to stop taking the medication; may put them at even greater risk of opportunistic infections, cancers and death.

- Some strains of HIV have been shown to cause illness and death rapidly regardless of immune status.

- We didn't realize the prevalence of other STD infections when infected with HIV. Being infected with HIV may also include being infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, human papilloma virus (HPV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), and hepatitis A, B, and C, and others!

-In the United States, there are 980,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and 45,000 newly infected.

-In Canada, 56,000 people are infected with HIV. The rates of infection among our aboriginal population in Canada are reported to rival the worst hit areas of Africa! HIV infection among aboriginal people is twice the rate of infection in non-aboriginal people.

- Seventy five percent of the world population infected with HIV is heterosexual.

- Fifty percent of all HIV infections are women. The proportion of adults living with HIV/AIDS who are women has been steadily increasing. AIDS now ranks as one of the leading causes of death among women aged 20 to 40 in several cities in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and North America!

- Studies show that anal sex is common throughout the world and in some countries 60% of adults practice anal sex.

- Condom usage is lower for heterosexual anal sex compared to vaginal sex.

- Many men who have sex with men do not define themselves as gay. More and more women are being infected with HIV through sexual intercourse with their male partner, unaware their partner is bisexual!

- In heterosexual relationships, infidelity is also responsible for increases in HIV infection among women.

- Everyday, 6,000 individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 are infected with HIV.

- There is the perception that if you are infected, HIV is manageable. It involves management of your health through doctors' appointments, hospital visits for blood work and appointments at hospital pharmacies to pick up your necessary HIV/AIDS medications. You must manage the side effects of the drugs and drug resistance. There are the demands of managing to overcome each opportunistic infection. All of these are essential to manage to stay alive!

This is the kind of information that everyone needs to know if HIV infections/transmissions are to be prevented. Each person understanding and taking responsibility for their own lives and the lives of others! Even though the numbers of AIDS cases in poorer regions are growing rapidly, the problem with HIV is worldwide; people everywhere need to be aware they are at risk of infection if they have unprotected sex!

Talking about safe sex and the need to use a condom or providing condoms is not working! HIV is a global problem which demands attention yet those of us working tirelessly are unable to get articles or /letters published in newspapers, events covered, or messages conveyed to help educate the public. Snippets of news and safe sex commercials are not effective enough. The time the media gives to HIV/AIDS coverage is that of news covering a new drug or conference or a statistic. More familiar, media coverage of the sick! The media has fallen short in reaching people globally. Misconceptions continue.

HIV infection does not occur without an opportunity! HIV can be stopped, but without more public awareness of the risks involved, safe sex practices (CONDOMS!) and the realities of people living with HIV, the numbers of infections will continue to grow and more lives devastated!

This awareness cannot be provided by AIDS organizations alone! Government and the media need to play a more active role in HIV prevention. There has been insufficient time or attention given to the dispersal of proper information through the media regarding HIV and AIDS and HIV prevention. HIV and AIDS have not been made visible and clear to all. The truth about HIV infection needs to be told!

HIV needs to be in the media each and every day!

copyright Bradford McIntyre



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