Dreaming of an AIDS-free generation

Tess Riecke, Staff Writer

Imagine a world with one less killer virus. One less orphan, less tragedy and less death.

The world is slowly working towards an AIDS-free generation. Even though progress has been made, it will still be a long time until HIV/AIDS will be eradicated.

First, what is HIV/AIDS?

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

HIV targets specific immunity cells called T cell which slowly break down the body’s ability to fight off infections. When it is in this stage, it becomes AIDS.

There is no safe cure for HIV/AIDS. However, there are drugs that can help prolong the life of someone infected. The medicine called Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, can also keep the infected from spreading it to others as easily.

This is one of the ways organizations like UNAIDS and the World Health Organization are trying to create an AIDS-free world.

A program called the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission, or PMTCT, is one of the leaders in preventing AIDS. There are programs globally, but are mostly located in countries in Africa and Asia.

ART is given to expecting mothers, which helps decrease the chance of babies being born with HIV. The program also helps HIV positive women prevent unintended pregnancies.

Since 2001, the number of children who became HIV positive from their mothers has dropped about 52 percent in the countries with PMTCT facilities.

While HIV among children in developing countries is caused mostly by mother-to-child transmission, in countries such as the United States, HIV in children and young adults is because of unprotected sex.

About 64 percent of sexually active teens don’t get tested for HIV routinely. This is dangerous because people will continue to have unprotected sex, even though they are HIV positive.

This has led to the troubling fact that about 60 percent of young adults infected don’t actually know that they have the virus.

HIV doesn’t just spread through sexual intercourse. It also spreads through the sharing of needles among drug users. But getting HIV from sex is one of the most common forms.

The only way we can achieve an AIDS-free generation is through education and protection, and the United States needs to lead the way.

There are 10 countries that make up 61 percent of all the world’s cases of HIV, and the U.S. is on that list. I would hope that the U.S. would be leading the way to help end HIV/AIDS because it has been such an epidemic and we have more resources to prevent and treat it.

We know how to end it, yet why is it not working?

It’s mostly because of a lack of sex education.

Data supports the idea that conversations about sex and protection need to start by the fourth grade.

Kids, teens and young adults need to know that it’s either safe sex or no sex. If you have unprotected sex, you are running the risk of contracting and/or spreading the killer virus.

Do us all a favor: always use a condom and don’t share needles.

Help fight for the AIDS-free generation.