Promoting HIV Awareness on World AIDS Day
Are you seeing red today? If you’re noticing that people are wearing red today, it might be because they are supporting AIDS Awareness Day. On December 1st of every year, AIDS Awareness Day aims to support important research into curing AIDS. It also honors the victims of AIDS, and those who are living with this disease today.
What is HIV?
AIDS, or autoimmune deficiency syndrome, is a disease that attacks the body’s immune system. It is caused by a virus called HIV, an abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus. Many people think that AIDS and HIV are the same thing, but HIV is the virus, while AIDS is a medical condition that results from the virus.
HIV mainly spreads through sex or sharing needles. The early symptoms of an infection usually include flu-like symptoms, like fevers, pain, and swollen glands. At the early stage, the virus rapidly reproduces in the body. It attacks CD4 cells, which are important to fighting off infection. Eventually, the early symptoms go away, and the infected person experiences a “latent” stage. This is when HIV is still developing, but without physical symptoms. For some people, this stage can last years, but for others, deterioration of the immune system is incredibly rapid.
AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection, and occurs when the immune system has sustained serious damage from the virus. Once the infection progresses to AIDS, most people typically survive about 3 years with treatment. However, they are dangerously susceptible to opportunistic disease, like cancer, that can ravage their weakened immune system.
The Impact of HIV and AIDS
HIV is a relatively new infection in the United States. In the early days of HIV in the 1980s, the infection caused thousands of deaths, particularly among gay and bisexual men. Today, HIV is still prevalent in the United States, with around 1.1 million people living with the virus. Gay and bisexual men, African Americans, and people with a history of drug use are the groups most commonly impacted by HIV.
Thankfully, though, HIV has declined in the United States, decreasing by 18% between 2008 and 2014. While there is no cure, improved education has led to better prevention. Medications have also allowed people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives.
From a Social Security Disability standpoint, HIV can be a challenging disease. Since HIV sometimes has a long latent period, many people with the infection are still able to live productive lives, including holding down employment. Because of this, people with HIV, or even people in the early stages of AIDS, might not be considered disabled. For someone with HIV to be considered for SSD, the infection must lead to other serious health conditions, like central nervous system lymphoma or Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissues. Additionally, if the infection causes someone’s CD4 cell count to dramatically drop, they might be able to qualify for SSD. The fact that HIV/AIDS alone doesn’t qualify for SSD might be frustrating and devastating for many people, particularly if they feel like they do not have long to live, or if they are frequently tired or ill.
With no cure and life-threatening symptoms, HIV and AIDS are particularly insidious. This is why AIDS Awareness Day is important, as it spread awareness that can hopefully prevent future infections, and promotes the importance of finding a cure.
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