Healthcare Tips

HIV: Fighting Ignorance with Kindness

December 11, 2023
A doctor's gloved hand holding up a sample of liquid under a microscope.

We tend to fear the unknown, and in recent history, HIV and AIDS weren’t fully understood. But as time has passed, healthcare professionals and medical scientists have learned much more about the HIV virus and the AIDS disease that follows if left untreated. Now, for HIV and AIDS Awareness Month, we want to share with you more about these conditions, in the hopes of ending the stigma surrounding them.

What Are HIV and AIDS?

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the cells responsible for fighting infection in the body, which makes its human host more vulnerable to other diseases and illnesses. When left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. 

In the past, not much was known about HIV or AIDS. However, as  medical science has advanced, treatments have been developed that help prevent HIV and its spread. Today, people who are HIV-positive live long, healthy lives, and the virus can even become completely undetectable. 

Since HIV is most commonly transmitted sexually, there is a tremendous stigma surrounding the virus and, as a result, many people fear a diagnosis. This fear prevents people from getting tested, which can lead to serious repercussions such as spreading the virus to others, or the effects worsening and turning into AIDS. The CDC has made a concentrated effort to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV by correcting myths—such as only certain groups of people can contract HIV—and helping prevent discrimination against the people suffering from the virus.

So, What Can We Do?

If you think you are at risk for HIV, or if you suspect you may already have it, you need to speak to your doctor. Without being tested, there is no definitive way to know whether you have the virus. 

If you know someone with HIV, one of the most important things you can do is reassure them that they are not alone. Many people with HIV feel discriminated against and isolated from others because of unfair attitudes and beliefs, or because people around them fear getting the disease themselves. 

It is up to us to normalize the conversation around HIV and AIDS, and through continued education and support, we can help reduce the stigma.