Top Ten Things You Should Know About HIV/AIDS

1. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that can lead to an AIDS diagnosis (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).  Not everyone living with HIV has AIDS, but everyone that has AIDS has HIV.

2. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but the virus is 100% preventable.  Actions such as consistent and correct condom use, not sharing injection drug paraphernalia, and following medical recommendations if you are an HIV positive woman who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy decreases risk significantly.

3. HIV and AIDS has always and continues to disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities.

4. People with HIV can have a long, normal lifespan, though stigma surrounding HIV often creates a not so normal life.

5. In the United States, it is increasingly rare for pregnant women living with HIV to transmit the virus to their children.  However, on a global scale, mother-to-child transmission remains a significant percentage of HIV cases.

6. In Oregon, the vast majority of HIV and AIDS cases are among men who have sex with men.  Globally, women share a larger number of HIV/AIDS cases through heterosexual sex.

7. While HIV and AIDS may affect different populations in larger numbers or on a larger scale, it can happen to anyone.  Young or old, rich or poor, gay or straight, the virus does not discriminate.

8. HIV remains a virus that is not transmittable through casual contact such as hugging or sharing utensils.  Unprotected sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal, and anal), sharing needles for injection drug use, and mother to child transmission (in utero, during delivery, and breastfeeding) are the main transmission routes for the HIV virus.

9. Not everyone living with HIV is taking medication, but those who do take medications are far healthier when they are able to maintain adherence (taking your medication consistently as prescribed).  Access to health care, housing, support from family and friends, nutritious meals, and other basic needs greatly increases people?s ability to adhere to their medications, stay healthy, and increases their life expectancy.

10. Young people, particularly girls and young women, continue to be at the center of the epidemic. Youth are significantly impacted by the spread of HIV, but they are also at the heart of the movement to stop it. Young people hold the energy to change the future of the pandemic; talking to children and youth in our communities about staying safe and healthy is a great first step to making an impact.