Trigger Warning: This blog discusses HIV, AIDS, death and goes into detail about symptoms of HIV and AIDS.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus – or HIV, as most people know it – is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and diseases. For example, a common cold could kill you.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – or AIDS – is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been seriously damaged by HIV. In other words, your immune system begins to break down, leaving you very vulnerable to anything.
HIV can be transmitted from human to human through sexual intercourse and is more common to be transmitted from male to male, but it doesn’t only affect LGBTQ+ people, it can affect anyone. It is, however, more common in LGBTQ+ people. HIV and AIDS don’t currently have a cure.
Why it’s important to me…
Why am I telling you all of this? Today, December 1st is AIDS awareness day and I wanted to tell you about it. As someone who is gay, I am more likely to receive education about this and am more likely to read about this, but it doesn’t just affect gay people. It is important to me as people need to understand the stigmas that LGBTQ+ people still face over things that happened in the 80s. People need to be educated on AIDS and the fact it doesn’t only effect LGBTQ+ people.
The first case of AIDS was recorded in 1981 in San Francisco in America. It came here to the UK in December of the same year. Since then, 160,493 people have been infected nationally (NHS: December 2018), and there is no statistic on how many people have died of the disease nationally. Globally, millions of people have been diagnosed with the disease, and between 27.2 million people – 47.8 million people have died of aids-related illnesses since 1981 (WHO).
Illness and symptoms
The symptoms of HIV are a flu-like illness about 4 weeks after it enters the body, and lasts for about a week, and these symptoms can go away for many years. Your immune system is still breaking down. If you have any of these symptoms, get tested. It is also recommended that you get tested regularly if you could be at higher risk.
HIV can be transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, which is why if you are HIV positive, you have to be extremely careful around people and have to take precautions. For example, for any cut you have, you need to put a plaster on to protect other people. This is a bit like wearing a face-covering when you mix with alot of people, you protect other people, not yourself.
The effects of the AIDS epidemic was perfectly depicted in the TV show ‘It’s a Sin’, released earlier this year. It centres around a young man called Ritchie Tozer, as he makes the move from the Isle of Wight to London, just as AIDS was beginning to spread around the world. He meets some over gay men, who all buy a house together. Eventually, some of the main cast members get HIV/AIDS and die off. It depicts the origins of the AIDS crisis well and is really worth a watch, but the main thing I got out of it: how bad AIDS actually is, and how it can negatively affect people. When I watched it, I was transfixed at the TV for the whole day (it is a 15, so don’t watch it if you are under this age!).
Back in the 1980s, it was practically unheard of to be openly gay and with this and the AIDS epidemic, which was mostly only spread around gay men, there was a massive stigma. For this reason, for a very long time, nobody cared about it. It didn’t have any proper research done into it for ages, and, because of this, millions of people died unnecessarily.
That is what AIDS and HIV are in a nutshell. If you found this interesting, I would highly recommend the ‘It’s A Sin’ TV show, and to have a look at it yourself. I hope you have found this interesting,
Written by Dylan Baldock.