I remember the day I got a call telling me that one of my closest friends had died of AIDS. I couldn’t believe it. I had seen Jeff 2 months before and he looked great.
Besides feeling very sad at losing a wonderful friend, I also felt very angry with Jeff. I didn’t know how many times over the years I had reminded him of the importance of regular HIV testing. His answer was always the same. “I’m careful. Besides I never have sex with someone who has HIV.” About two months before his death, Jeff became very ill and ended up in the hospital with a very serious case of AIDS. There was nothing anyone could do to save him.
I am no longer angry with Jeff for not having regular HIV testing but will always be sad that he is no longer here. You may also know or have known someone with HIV or AIDS. Someone you liked or loved may have died. We all know AIDS is serious.
Tragically, over the years, the numbers of men, women and teens who have died from this very serious disease has increased. AIDS is the major cause of death for African American women ages 25 to 34. It is also the fourth leading cause of death for Latina women ages 35 to 44. HIV doesn’t know the difference between color and sex or anything else for that matter. And to make matters worse, of the over 1 million people who have it in the United States, one in 4 of them don’t know they have it!
Some Facts You Should Know
Every 9 and ½ minutes someone in the United States gets HIV. You or someone you are having sex with can have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS but still feel great. It can take a long time after infection to begin to feel sick.
You can get HIV from anyone. It doesn’t just have to be through sex. HIV can be passed through using IV drugs (intravenous/in the vein) drugs. You could have sex with someone who has used IV drugs in the past, got HIV but doesn’t know it!
Pregnancy and HIV
If you have HIV or AIDS and are planning to get pregnant, it is very important to talk with your health care provider BEFORE you get pregnant. You can find out how to take care of yourself and the medicines you should take to protect the baby. To learn more about HIV and pregnancy, go to http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/hivaids.html.
A pregnant woman can pass HIV to her baby in different ways: during pregnancy, during labor, during delivery, and during breastfeeding. By taking the right medicines, a mother can reduce the chance that her baby will get HIV by almost 99%. Without taking medicines, 1 in 4 babies born to HIV-positive mothers have HIV.
Get Tested Today!
Whether or not you think that you could have come in contact with HIV, whether or not you planning to get pregnant some day, please get tested now.
If you are HIV-positive, knowing your status will help you start treatment early. If you don’t have HIV, testing will help you be sure. Then you can take steps to avoid getting HIV in the future. Tell everyone you care about to get tested, too – talk, Tweet, and Facebook post about it.
Tools for Taking Action
The Act Against AIDS http://www.nineandahalfminutes.org/ campaign offers great information and tools:
Learn how you can protect yourself from HIV:
Learn how to stay healthy if you have HIV:
Download buttons, badges, and banners for your MySpace and FaceBook pages or Web site: http://www.nineandahalfminutes.org/resources.php
Locate an HIV testing site near you:
Take the HIV test. Get educated and share what you learn. You will protect yourself and your loved ones.
Barbara Kass-Annese, NP