Thankfully, medical innovations over the years have made HIV a manageable chronic disease (no cure yet), giving the gift of a potentially full life. Children who were born with HIV twenty years ago were not expected to live past eight or ten years. Those same kids, now young adults, have a life expectancy that approximates that of a healthy adult. In addition, perinatal medications can now prevent HIV transmission from mother to infant, which nearly eradicates the spread of the disease from birth (in countries where these medications are readily available, like the United States). Consequently, the numbers of people dying from AIDS complications in America have plummeted. However, the number of new cases of HIV infection in our country continues to climb.
In addition, and perhaps most significantly, the disease is still exceptionally isolating. While they may look like any other family, those infected continue to experience harsh rejection from their extended families, neighbors, friends, coworkers, schoolmates, and social networks. Many live in fear of disclosure, while simultaneously struggling with guilt, shame, and concern for their future. People who are HIV+ normally have a daily regime of medication, and have regularly scheduled doctor visits, but they are not scary. HIV is not contactable through day-to-day activities. Children who are infected look and act normal, and should be treated as the individuals they are.
REACH comes alongside people for the long-haul to provide spiritual and moral support, judgment-free acceptance, safe community, and education to equip them to rise above the isolation, fear, and rejection. Help us to normalize HIV, help us to create safe spaces for people who are infected with HIV, and help us to make a better world for the children who are growing up with HIV.
If you decide to become a volunteer you will be trained on HIV education, and have the chance to interact with a specialized Infectious Disease Doctor. Meanwhile, please take the time to learn more about HIV through these websites and continue to educate yourself and others on what it really means to live with HIV.
H – Human – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
I – Immunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A “deficient” immune system can’t protect you.
V – Virus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the “flu” or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn’t the case with HIV – the human immune system can’t seem to get rid of it. Scientists are still trying to figure out why.We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS. (aids.gov)
A – Acquired – AIDS is not something you inherit from your parents. You acquire AIDS after birth.
I – Immuno – Your body’s immune system includes all the organs and cells that work to fight off infection or disease.
D – Deficiency – You get AIDS when your immune system is “deficient,” or isn’t working the way it should.
S – Syndrome – A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs of disease.
AIDS is a syndrome, rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and symptoms. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the final stage of HIV infection. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs). (aids.gov)