National HIV Testing Day falls on June 27, and calls attention to this important public health issue in the United States and worldwide.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and is a disease that affects the body's immune system and ability to fight off other infections. AIDS, which stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is the late-stage infection of HIV.
Approximately 35 million people worldwide are HIV-positive, including 1.2 million in the United States. This includes the 3.5 million children who are HIV-positive, most of them infected during pregnancy, birth, or shortly after by their HIV-positive mothers.
Most people who are HIV-positive do not know they have the disease, as HIV is a more serious issue in areas of the world where people do not have access to adequate healthcare. Once a person gets tested for HIV, treatment is available to help HIV-positive individuals live healthy lives without transmitting the diease to others.
In the United States, HIV/AIDS has historically been a stigmatized disease, as it happened to occur most frequently in populations which were already marginalized. Homophobia and racism against immigrants were used to justify withholding medical care. Though treatment options have greatly improved in recent years, there is still no known cure for the disease.
To learn more about the history of HIV/AIDS, check out HIV and AIDS: The Science Inside. For middle grades, check out What's Really Bugging You? to introduce students to the concept of viruses and infectious diseases.
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