01 December 2008

World AIDS Day

“Presidents and prime ministers, doctors and lawyers, scientists and schoolteachers, chief executives and trade union leaders, religious groups and communities, and – critically – people living with HIV, are coming together in a brilliant coalition that has proved that, with clear targets and strong commitment, we can move mountains.” ~ UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, 2008 World AIDS Day message

After the Thanksgiving leftovers have been devoured, we turn our attention to what Thanksgiving really means. It means being thankful for all that one has and to pray for those who go without. We also hold in our hearts and minds those who are suffering, particularly this day, for those who suffer from HIV and AIDS.

On this World AIDS Day, we are still battling this pandemic after 27 years. Thirty-three million people worldwide are still living with this deadly disease. As Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS states, there is reason for celebration, yet still reason for concern. Though we have made progress with HIV prevention programs, there are still areas in the world where such programs are non-existent. This affects all of us, especially our children. Nearly half of all AIDS cases in the U.S. involve people 13 to 24 years of age.

10 Basic Facts on HIV and AIDS

It is your right to know...

§ AIDS is caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which damages the body's defense system. People who have AIDS become weaker because their bodies lose the ability to fight all illnesses. They eventually die. There is no cure for HIV.

§ The onset of AIDS can take up to ten years from the time of infection with the HIV virus. Therefore a person infected with HIV may look and feel healthy for many years, but he or she can still transmit the virus to someone else. New medicines can help a person stay healthier for longer periods of time, but the person will still have HIV and be able to transmit HIV.

§ HIV is transmitted through HIV-infected bodily fluids. HIV is transmitted through the exchange of any HIV-infected bodily fluids. Transfer may occur during all stages of the infection/disease. The HIV virus is found in the following fluids: blood, semen (and pre-ejaculated fluid), vaginal secretions, breast milk.

§ HIV is most frequently transmitted sexually. That is because fluids mix and the virus can be exchanged, especially where there are tears in vaginal or anal tissue, wounds or other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). Girls are especially vulnerable to HIV infection because their vaginal membranes are thinner and more susceptible to infection than those of mature women.

§ People who have Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are at greater risk of being infected with HIV. People who have STIs are at greater risk of being infected with HIV and of transmitting their infection to others. People with STIs should seek prompt treatment and avoid sexual intercourse or practice safer sex (non-penetrative sex or sex using a condom), and inform their partners.

§ The risk of sexual transmission of HIV can be reduced if people do not have sex, if uninfected partners have sex only with each other or if people have safer sex – sex without penetration or using a condom. The only way to be completely sure to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV is by abstaining from all sexual contact.

§ People who inject themselves with drugs are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. HIV can also be transmitted when the skin is cut or pierced using an unsterilized needle, syringe, razorblade, knife or any other tool. People who inject themselves with drugs or have sex with drug users are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. Moreover, drug use alters people's judgment and can lead to risky sexual behaviour, such as not using condoms.

§ Contact a health worker or an HIV/AIDS centre to receive counseling and testing. Anyone who suspects that he or she might have been infected with HIV should contact a health worker or an HIV/AIDS centre in order to receive confidential counseling and testing. It is your right. (Article 24 of the Convention on the rights of the child).

§ HIV is not transmitted by everyday contact. HIV is not transmitted by: hugging, shaking hands; casual, everyday contact; using swimming pools, toilet seats; sharing bed linens, eating utensils, food; mosquito and other insect bites; coughing, sneezing.

§ Everyone deserves compassion and support. Discriminating against people who are infected with HIV or anyone thought to be at risk of infection violates individual human rights and endangers public health. Everyone infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS deserves compassion and support. (Article 2 of the Convention on the rights of the child).

Education is the path to prevention and healing. Inform yourself of the facts about HIV and AIDS. Ignorance leads to death.

Sometimes we may feel powerless in the face of such an epidemic. Fear not! You need not feel helpless or powerless, there are things that you can do. For more information on how to help and what you can do, visit BlogCatalog's Blogger Unite Challenge Page.

Remember, it only takes one to make a difference.

In peace,
Coach Carolyn

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