World AIDS day is held every year on the first day of December. The tradition started in 1988, when it became the first ever global health day. The day is held to commemorate people who live with HIV and the people who have died as a result of it. Most importantly perhaps, it is a day that raises awareness about HIV and AIDS and encourages discussion around health awareness and support systems.
WHAT IS AIDS?
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Contrary to popular belief, the two are not synonymous, and it is possible to live with HIV without having AIDS. One is considered to have developed AIDS when the immune system is weakened to the extent where it can no longer fight even mild diseases. For example, someone living with HIV is more susceptible to getting tuberculosis. In such an event, the immune system can weaken immensely, leading to a condition of AIDS.
HIV is contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. Therefore, the most common ways in which people get infected are by sharing needles or having unprotected sex.
TALKING ABOUT AIDS
The only way to stop the spread of HIV, and subsequently of AIDS, is to talk about it. Despite three decades of the virus being discovered, there remains a large cloud of confusion around it. Moreover, people are unwilling to talk and learn about HIV and AIDS due to the societal stigma around it, and due to beliefs about how HIV can be contracted.
The main vehicle for talking about the epidemic is school, or more specifically, sex education at schools. Abstinence-only education, or the lack of education at all, contributes immensely to the growing number of people who are diagnosed with AIDS each year. Some basic facts must be cleared out. Gay men are not the only ones who can contract HIV. The virus can be transmitted through vaginal, and in some cases, through oral sex as well. Condoms continue to be the primary source of safe sex – they prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, and are instrumental in stopping the spread of HIV.
As a developing country with a huge population, India is home to many HIV-afflicted citizens. The taboo that remains around anything sexual prevents us from moving forward to becoming a healthy nation. We hope you do your part to spread awareness about the importance of talking about HIV !
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