While great progress has been made in the fight against AIDS, much work still remains. Deaths have declined from their historic peak by 77%, and life expectancy continues to increase. However, HIV/AIDS is still on the rise in Wisconsin and now, more than ever, those affected need your support.
Here is the latest on the AIDS epidemic:
- In the first three months of 2011 alone, 72 new cases of HIV infection have been reported in Wisconsin.
- 8,586 cases of HIV infection have been reported in Wisconsin since 1983.
- 6,364 people are presumed living with HIV/AIDS in Wisconsin today.
- 18% of new HIV cases were among young people ages 15-24.
- 15% of new HIV cases were among women.
- Race/ethnic minorities comprise only 12% of the Wisconsin population, but 52% of all HIV cases reported in 2010 were members of racial/ethnic minorities.
- In 2010, 73% of all new HIV cases were among gay men.
- Experts estimate that 1 in 5 individuals living with HIV are unaware of their status.
- HIV is a disease that affects people regardless of age, gender, race, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation.
- HIV infections have been reported in all 72 counties in Wisconsin, with highest concentration in Milwaukee County.
- Nearly 33% of HIV patients have no health care coverage.
- More than 30% of HIV patients cannot afford their HIV medications.
HIV vs. AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and breaks down the body's immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight disease. When the immune system becomes weak, we lose our protection against illness and can develop serious and even life-threatening infections and/or cancer.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the condition people with HIV develop if they have one of the serious infections connected to HIV, or if blood tests show that their immune system has been very badly damaged by the virus. AIDS is the last and most severe stage of the HIV infection.
It usually takes several years before HIV breaks down the immune system badly enough to cause AIDS. Most people have few, if any symptoms for several years after contracting HIV. However, once HIV enters the blood stream, it can seriously compromise the immune system. It is important to note that not all people with HIV develop AIDS, and not all people with HIV die.
Methods of HIV Transmission
People with HIV can only pass on the disease when certain bodily fluids enter the bloodstream of another person. These include blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. The three main ways these bodily fluids can enter another person's bloodstream are:
- Unprotected Sex - having sex without a condom, including oral, anal and vaginal
- Needle Sharing - the use of contaminated needles associated with IV drug use, steroid injection, tattoos and blood rituals
- Mother-to-Child - through pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding
HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact, including kissing or hugging. HIV is not transmitted through coughing, sneezing, toilet seats, phones, water fountains, sharing food and drink, or insect bites. No evidence exists that the virus can be transmitted through tears, saliva or sweat.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can contract HIV, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. Your risk is dependent on your activities. Even if you are part of a community with a high infection rate, you can avoid getting HIV. Staying uninfected requires thought, planning and open communication. Often it means discussing issues that may be uncomfortable. Make it easier by getting all the facts, talking with people you trust, and talking with people who are in the same situation.