Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

By Diane Forrest, RN

I remember when Rock Hudson died.  I remember watching him in those old movies with Doris Day, Pillow Talk was one of my favorites.  I remember hearing that he had died of AIDS, but it wasn't well known back in 1985, so I really didn't know what that meant.  An AIDS wasn't even recognized by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) until 1981.  It wasn't long before the entire story came about.  We learned that Rock Hudson was homosexual, and that AIDS was a result from unprotected sexual contact with an infected person.  While I was in Nursing School, much was still being learned about.  We would have to wear a gown, gloves and mask when entering a patient's room suspected of AIDS.

AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the final stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) disease, which causes severe damage to the immune system.

AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death among people ages 25 - 44 in the United States, down from number one in 1995.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 25 million people worldwide have died from this infection since the start of the epidemic.

In 2008, there were approximately 33.4 million people around the world living with HIV/AIDS, including 2.1 million children under age 15.

The virus can be spread (transmitted):
  • Through sexual contact -- including oral, vaginal, and anal sex
  • Through blood -- via blood transfusions (now extremely rare in the U.S.) or needle sharing
  • From mother to child -- a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her fetus through their shared blood circulation, or a nursing mother can transmit it to her baby in her breast milk

HIV infection is NOT spread by:
  • Casual contact such as hugging
  • Mosquitoes
  • Participation in sports
  • Touching items that were touched by a person infected with the virus

Common symptoms are:
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sweats (particularly at night)
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

There is no cure for AIDS at this time. However, a variety of treatments are available that can help keep symptoms at bay and improve the quality of life for those who have already developed symptoms.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007, of which about 270,000 were children.

Today is World AIDS Day.  To learn more about AIDS, and what you can do, visit this site:

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