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From the Director's Desk: – HIV - Let's Erase the Stigma

More than one million people in the United States live with HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which occurs when certain bodily fluids attack the body’s immune system, destroying important cells that fight disease and infection.

Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely. Although there is currently no cure for the disease, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled and those affected can still live full, fulfilling, healthy lives.

HIV is spread only through specific activities; most commonly, sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use. Although less likely, HIV may be spread from a mother to a child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

HIV does not survive long outside of the human body; therefore, it cannot reproduce outside of a human host. This means HIV isn’t spread by:

  • Mosquitoes, ticks or other insects;
  • Saliva, tears, or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of a person who has HIV,
  • Hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth kissing with someone who has HIV or
  • Other sexual activities that don’t involve the exchange of body fluids (such as touching).

Like many other diseases, HIV is preventable. Using strategies like not having sex, limiting your number of sexual partners, not sharing needles and using condoms the right way every time you have sex, can all help eliminate your risk of contracting the disease.

If you have HIV, you can prevent spreading it to others by taking your medicine as prescribed. This can make the amount of HIV in your blood very low, so much so that a test can’t detect it.

Whether you’ve been impacted by HIV or not, you can play a role in confronting the HIV epidemic, whether it’s by talking with family and friends about it, speaking out against HIV-related stigma and discrimination or sponsoring an HIV education event. Talking openly about HIV can help normalize the subject, as well as provide opportunities to correct misconceptions and help others learn more about the disease.

For more information about HIV, click here. For facts and statistics about HIV in Arkansas, click here.

As always, thanks for stopping by the Director’s Corner, where your health is our priority!