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World AIDS Day and Women

by Margot F. November 30th, 2018 | Health Observance, Women's Health
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womanDecember 1st is World AIDS Day and an excellent opportunity to take a look at how this serious disease impacts women. Since the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s has subsided, it is easy to be complacent about contracting AIDS. Also, previously, only gay men contracted this horrible disease. Unfortunately, in 2013, AIDS continues to be a serious problem globally for gay men and also, heterosexual women. While media reports show how HIV/ AIDS has ravaged sub-Saharan Africa, the number of cases of HIV/ AIDS in the United States and Canada is significant, especially for women. Even for heterosexual, monogamous, middle-age women, it is important to review basic terms about AIDS and how it is contracted.

HIV is an acronym that stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This virus often progresses to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. Unfortunately, the human body cannot get rid of this virus, so once you contract it there is no cure. Yes, present day drugs allow a person to live with AIDS but the medication must be taken all your life. If at all possible, protect yourself from getting HIV/AIDS. HIV is contracted through human body fluids including semen, blood or vaginal fluid of an infected person. There are three main ways HIV is contracted namely, through unprotected sex including anal, vaginal or oral. Secondly, you can get HIV by sharing contaminated needles, syringes or blood products. Thirdly, babies born to mothers with HIV, can be infected in the womb, during birth or through breast milk. It is important to note that HIV cannot be contracted through casual contact with an infected person in the community, at work or during sports events. Because HIV cannot live long outside the body, it is not an airborne or food-borne virus.  Therefore, it is okay to shake hands, hug or share a meal with an infected person. HIV is not found on toilet seats, door knobs, drinking fountains or pets. It is fine to exchange a casual kiss, but recommended to avoid people with open sores or bleeding gums.

If you have engaged in risky behavior or are concerned that your partner has, it is important to be tested for HIV. When a person is infected with HIV, the body automatically makes antibodies to fight it. A simple blood test is used to look for those antibodies. It can take eight to fourteen weeks for the antibodies to appear in the blood work. It might seem like a long wait, but knowing your HIV status is important to protect you, your family and your partner.

In October, I got tested while donating blood. In Canada, as all blood donations are routinely tested for HIV. Other places to get tested for HIV are a public health unit, a family planning or sexual health clinic, your doctor or through a local AIDS organization. In recognition of World AIDS Day, assess your risk of having HIV/AIDS. Is it time to get tested?

 

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.