HIV AIDS: Helping Along the Way

 By: Oliver Hartman
HIV/AIDS continues to dramatically affect people all over the world despite preventive measures such as educational awareness and testing programs and treatment initiatives such as drug research and development. Even in the United States, where government funding, medical technology, and education would seemingly defeat this disease, the epidemic continues. According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) over 1,000,000 people are living HIV/AIDS in this country and approximately 40,000 new cases are reported each year. Although high, this is a significant drop from the new annual cases reported during 1980's, which approached 150,000.

The statistics from the CDC are an important resource for tracking changes and measuring the impact of efforts, whether focused on treatment or prevention. An overview of recent data reveals important trends. First, prevention awareness and educational programs that aim to inform and promote less risky behavior are reducing the number of new cases within the United States.

Second, despite the efforts of these programs people are continuing to transmit HIV/AIDS. This is largely due to risky behavior revolving around drug use and unprotected sex, but continued lack of HIV/AIDS testing is also to blame. It is estimated that close to thirty percent of people infected with HIV are asymptomatic and do not know it. Routine testing remains major priority, and as such, officials have tried to institute these blood tests as a routine clinical procedure.

Third, while the number of new active cases has decreased, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS has increased. This illustrates the improvements of drug therapy. Successful drug regimes help contain HIV so that it does not become AIDS and help the body fight off opportunistic infections - infections or diseases that can capitalize on a weakened immune system of an HIV/AIDS patient, but not in a healthy person - which are normally the ultimate cause of death.

Thanks to these efforts and more, today's picture is brighter than the past. People with HIV/AIDS are now living longer and healthier lives, but they still face serious health problems. These complications include aversion to medicine, afflictions stemming from a weakened immune system, and adverse effects of the infection itself. Because of these on-going vulnerabilities, in 2004 HIV/AIDS was reclassified from an infectious disease to a chronic disease. As such, the treatment strategy, adopted from the Guide to Primary Care for People with HIV/AIDS, stresses a comprehensive long-term model that involves clinical attention, proactive community groups, and self-management.

Within this model, the contributions of community groups provide HIV/AIDS patients with resources and support to improve their lives. Services and direct care programs help patients with financial matters, housing, nutritional needs, counseling, support groups, and transportation. Given that the national budgets are invested in large-scale educational programs and research, individual impact is felt most strongly when contributions go to organizations that provide services directly to individuals in need.
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