It has been forty-two years since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a report on five previously healthy young gay men diagnosed with KS/OI. This was the first recognized sign of what would become known as the AIDS epidemic. Since that time, the United States has experienced every emotion imaginable when confronting the issue of HIV/AIDS—fear, misunderstanding, compassion, and now prevention. According to the federal AIDS research project, “approximately 1.2 million people in the USA have HIV. About 13 percent of them don’t know it and need testing. HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations, particularly racial minorities and gay men.”
AIDS has touched the lives of many people, but one subgroup that is often ignored in the fight for HIV/AIDS, are children. Ryan White, is probably the most notable child who died of AIDS complications. As a hemophiliac, White became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and, when diagnosed in December 1984, was given six months to live. White’s story received national attention because he was barred from attending school following his diagnosis. Other children who have become AIDS activists include Hydeia Broadbent, a child who was born HIV positive. While her parents were told she wouldn’t live past the age of five, she has defied the odds, and is living well at thirty-nine. Her advocacy extends beyond just general HIV knowledge, she also discusses the disenfranchisement many AIDS patients have with obtaining adequate medical insurance.
For many, it is disheartening that a cure for AIDS does not yet exist. However, medical science has evolved that AIDS is no longer considered a death sentence for those who contract the disease. With the introduction of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to the market in 2012, this medication prevents or controls the spread of HIV for those who are at risk for contracting HIV. Other medications, when taken correctly can make infected persons undetectable. This means the levels of HIV are so low that the virus cannot be passed on. It can take up to six months for some people to become undetectable from when they start treatment.
Across the world, December 1st is recognized as World AIDS Day. A time when we remember individuals who lost their battle with AIDS, provide information about HIV/AIDS awareness, and encourage all sexually active adults to consider being tested for HIV. For those who need treatment, there are options available for you. Treatment and testing are an essential part of public awareness; in the city of Milwaukee, Vivent Health specializes in serving HIV positive individuals and their families.
For more information, please contact (414) 273-1991.