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Be more aware about HIV, AIDS

By Lance Cpl. Kel Clark | | December 4, 2009

The human immunodeficiency virus and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are leading causes of death in the world today, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Web site. More than 33 million people are living with HIV or AIDS in the world.

HIV is a virus that gradually attacks immune system cells. As HIV progressively damages these cells, the body becomes more vulnerable to infections and is left incapable of fighting them off, according to William Jones, a physicians assistant with the Branch Medical Clinic aboard the Air Station.

The virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood or other bodily fluids containing DNA come in contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin or mucous membranes. It is at the point of very advanced HIV infection that a person clinically has AIDS. It can be years before HIV has damaged the immune system enough for AIDS to develop.

According to www.hab.hrsa.gov, in the U.S., blacks account for almost 45 percent of people infected with AIDS, followed by whites with over 35 percent. Hispanics account for almost 20 percent in the U.S. Almost 50 percent of the estimated AIDS count in the U.S., are from male-to-male contact, about 25 percent from heterosexual contact and about 22 percent from injection drug use, or sharing needles for drugs.

Although AIDS and HIV are incurable, there are methods people can practice to prevent them from spreading.

The best protection against STDs is to abstain from sex or have a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person. Avoiding sexual activity with people who have AIDS or people at risk of infection will also minimize the risk of sexually transmitted infections, according to U.S. Public Health Service Web site.

“We (the BMC) check service members regularly, whether they have symptoms or not, to find out if they have the virus,” Jones said. “People may not know they have HIV or AIDS for years because some symptoms will not show until later in their lives and they should be tested routinely.”

The Marines and sailors aboard the Air Station, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Naval Hospital are constantly educated about AIDS and how to stay protected, according to Jones.

“The military stays more aware of HIV and AIDS than civilians because of the testing and briefs received,” Jones said.

For more information about how to prevent HIV and AIDS, civilians can go to their local clinics and health departments. Service members can go to their primary military care centers. For an HIV testing, call the BMC and set up an appointment at 228-7035.