When Is National AIDS Awareness Month?
There are many different days, weeks, and months during the year that we observe in order to raise awareness for a particular cause. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. August is Immunization Month. April is STI Awareness Month. These observations all highlight an important area—often related to health—that requires more attention in order to make the particular situation better. One of these months of observation and awareness is National AIDS Awareness Month. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about National AIDS Awareness Month and why it is important.
National AIDS Awareness Month
National AIDS Awareness Month occurs every December in the United States and begins with World AIDS Day, which is December 1st. The two observations combine to highlight HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in an effort to educate people about them and their risks, and to urge people to take action.
World AIDS Day began in 1988 and was the first global health day that was ever created. On the day, millions of people around the world wear a red ribbon to show their support and spread awareness. On World AIDS Day and throughout the entire month of December, money is also raised through fundraisers and charitable giving to help combat HIV and AIDS.
Now that we know more about National AIDS Awareness Month and World AIDS Day, let’s look at exactly why they are so important.
Why Is National AIDS Awareness Month Important?
- Education and Awareness – Two of the reasons that National AIDS Awareness Month and World AIDS Day are so important is because they help to educate and raise HIV/AIDS awareness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 38 million people in the world who are living with HIV, and 650,000 individuals die each year from HIV-related illnesses. In the United States, there are over 1 million individuals living with HIV.
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there have been an estimated 80 million people who have been infected with the HIV virus and around 40 million people who have died from the virus. Many people are unaware of the risks of HIV and AIDS, so World AIDS Day and National AIDS Awareness Month are crucial times to spread this vital information.
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and impacts its ability to fight off other infections and diseases. The virus is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of a person with HIV—mainly blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. Because of this, HIV is most commonly spread through unprotected sex and the sharing of injection drug equipment like needles.
When an individual is HIV-positive, they can often experience flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection. However, some individuals never experience any symptoms at all. That means the only way to truly know whether someone has HIV or not is to get tested.
There are three main stages of HIV infection that a person can experience when they contract the virus:
- Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection – Acute HIV infection occurs within the first 2 to 4 weeks after contracting the virus. This stage is when many people experience flu-like symptoms and the virus is multiplying rapidly in the body, increasing the risk of HIV transmission.
- Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection – Chronic HIV infection—also known as asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency—occurs when the virus is still reproducing within the body, but at a much slower rate. Individuals may experience little or no symptoms at this stage but can still transmit HIV. This stage may last for a decade or longer before moving into Stage 3, but taking medication may help avoid ever moving to that level.
- Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – AIDS is the final and most severe form of HIV infection. In this stage, the immune system is severely damaged and the body has lost most of its ability to fight off infections. It’s common for individuals with AIDS to have a high viral load, making it easy to transmit HIV to others. Without treatment, individuals with AIDS generally survive around 3 years.
There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS. Once you are HIV-positive, you are infected for life. However, there are treatments that can help when you are HIV-positive and reduce the risk of developing AIDS. The most common treatment is antiretroviral therapy (ART), which helps those with HIV to live longer, healthier lives, and can also reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
There are also steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting HIV, like practicing safe sex, getting tested often, or taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) if you are at high risk of getting HIV. Part of the education and awareness that comes with this month involves encouraging people to get tested and take the proper safety precautions.
- Action – Another reason National AIDS Awareness Month and World AIDS Day are so important is that they help encourage people to take action after teaching them about the situation. Action can take many forms, including getting tested, talking to your doctor about PrEP for HIV, or spreading the word to others to educate them as well. You can also make a donation to a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those with HIV and AIDS, or even start a fundraiser to maximize the impact of your gift.
- Commemoration – Finally, these two observations that are focused on raising awareness for HIV and AIDS are important because they serve as a commemoration for those who have struggled with HIV and lost their lives because of it. By observing World AIDS Day and National AIDS Awareness Month, we can remember these individuals and celebrate their lives as we continue to work toward a cure and a brighter future for those who are HIV-positive.
One of the main purposes of World AIDS Day and National AIDS Awareness Month is to encourage people to go out and get tested. At MyAlly Health, we offer free rapid HIV testing every day, so reach out to us today to get tested!
We also offer both Truvada and Descovy as PrEP treatments and work with insurance, Medicaid, and any other program that will help you cover the costs. Additionally, we conduct screenings and testing for most other sexually transmitted diseases, including annual examinations like Pap smears to test for HPV, and Gardasil vaccinations to protect you from HPV infections.
MyAlly Health offers confidential reproductive health services to women and men in the Grand Forks, North Dakota area, regardless of income or age. This includes preventive care, like getting tested for STIs, breast examinations, and pelvic examinations; determining the best birth control for you; and even getting vaccinated against the flu. The clinical services we provide are all performed by Nurse Practitioners and Resident Physicians.
In order to empower and engage individuals in their well-being and reproductive health, MyAlly Health offers education, counseling, advocacy, and healthcare services. You can also find out more about what we do or schedule an appointment with us today!