Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV/AIDS is not solely an individual concern. It is a family issue that we can’t afford to ignore. It affects not only the person living with the virus, but the entire family and, ultimately, our entire community.
National HIV Testing Day is June 27 – a good reminder to turn our attention to the ways HIV/AIDS affects our families as well as our community.
This month, various campaigns are running across the country to dispel myths, improve education and remind people that HIV has not gone away.
It has been 30 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first case of a deadly new syndrome that would come to be known as HIV/AIDS. Over the years, we have made great strides in preventing HIV transmission and treating people with HIV and AIDS.
Prescription drugs, long-term care plans, healthy-lifestyle interventions and innovative treatments are improving. Americans with HIV and AIDS are living longer, healthier and more productive lives.
According to the CDC, more than 1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, and more than 20 percent of those living with HIV are unaware of their infection. The CDC estimates that more than 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, and more than 18,000 people with AIDS die each year in the U.S.
In Arizona, an estimated 17,230 residents are diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, according to the latest CDC data. Among all states, the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates were in New York, California, Florida and Texas. The states with the lowest infection rates included North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.
By race/ethnicity, African Americans are severely and disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in the United States, according to the CDC. African Americans represent roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population; however, they account for almost half of people living with HIV as well as nearly half of new infections each year.
There is no scientific evidence that demonstrates that African Americans are more susceptible to HIV infection, and efforts to prevent HIV transmission are equally effective in the African-American population as in other populations.
HIV/AIDS is both preventable and treatable. Early diagnosis and proper care help people with HIV/AIDS live longer and healthier lives and prevent them from spreading the disease. Yet, one in five Americans living with HIV today does not know it. The CDC identifies stigma as a major contributor to the spread of HIV.
To learn more about HIV, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov. UnitedHealthcare’s Generations of Wellness website, www.uhcgenerations.com, offers online tools and culturally relevant health information to help African Americans enhance their health and quality of life.
• Dr. Robert Beauchamp is senior medical director of UnitedHealthcare of Arizona.