The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) are a spectrum of conditions, caused by HIV infection. Infection can be transmitted in a number of ways, such as unprotected sexual intercourse, the sharing of blood via sharing of needles or a compromised blood donation. It can also be transferred from parent to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that over one million persons aged thirteen years or older are living with an HIV infection in the United States alone. Since 2004, that number has remained relatively stable, despite an estimated 50,000 new infections per year. The World Health Organization places the worldwide infection count at approximately 35 million people, and of these, 3.2 million are fifteen years or younger.
AIDS first appeared as a pandemic within the homosexual community in the US, and has since impacted that demographic the most significantly within North America, while amongst the various races and ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected. A 1998 plasma analysis of one of the earliest known samples of the HIV-1 virus suggests that the first known case of HIV infection happened in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. This was well before the AIDS pandemic of the 1980’s, when HIV and AIDs first became a global concern.
HIV is the world’s most infectious killer, according to the World Health Organization, and an estimated thirty nine million people have died since 1981, with 658,507 of those deaths being within the United States. An estimated thirteen thousand people with an AIDS diagnosis died in the United States in 2012. A report from the United Nations estimates that nineteen million people living with HIV currently aren’t aware of their infection. However, great strides have been made in recent years. In 2013, 970,000 pregnant women living with HIV in low income countries received Antiretroviral therapy to avoid transmission of the infection to their children, a raise of 47% since 2010.
With global education about HIV and AIDs raising since the 90’s, the rate of death has made significant reductions in the past ten years. The United Nations AIDS initiative has developed a ‘know your epidemic, know your response’ approach for combating the rise of the infection, and comprises a series of exercises to help categories an epidemic. This includes tracking factors such as modes of transmission, key affected groups, and epidemiological trends, such as the number of new HIV infections among young people. UNAIDS combined approach uses a number of community-owned programs that take account of biomedical, structural and behavioral actions to meet the current HIV prevention needs of individuals and areas, to have the greatest sustained impact on reduction of new infections. Successful social interventions that have shown success have been: counseling and psychological support, educational awareness (such as sexual education classes), and guidelines on safe infant feeding.
In short, the rate of HIV transmission has been stable for some time, but the rate of death has dropped in a wide variety of demographics due to the actions of a number of organizations providing support and information to inflicted communities.