A Message From Our Founder: HAPPY NEW YEAR!


I just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! As you reflect on 2008 and prepare to step into 2009, please take a minute to remember all those who are suffering from
HIV/AIDS around the world, needing further treatment and resources. Keep in mind those who are still unaware of the magnitude of this crisis and are in need of further information. Here at Inaction Is Not An Option (INO), we've got BIG plans for 2009, including a ton of new content and articles, in addition to more HIV/AIDS awareness events and workshops as we continue on the mission to spread knowledge and education faster than the HIV infection. Furthermore, we will be consistent in our efforts to work with other organizations in order to provide information, treatment, and resources to those who are suffering and have no advocates. So INO will definitely be busy in the upcoming year!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read the blog. We appreciate all your feedback, so please continue to share it with us. We look forward to your continued readership and support in the New Year! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Julia Rock


According to a recent article by NBC29 (Virginia), the University of Virginia's Infectious Disease Clinic is testing a very unique text messaging program in order to improve the contact with HIV patients in the rural areas of Virginia. The program is described below.

The program launched last summer after a social worker saw that patients in less urban parts of the state were missing appointments and falling out of treatment.

In the program HIV patients are given a cell phone that only receives texts and can only call emergency and medical contacts. The goal is to see if they stay the course of treatment longer than six months.

In my opinion, a program like this should be monitored for success because if it IS successful, it can implemented around the country to improve contact with HIV patients who may need assistance in keeping appointments and maintaining their treatment.


An organization that has taken on the challenge of tackling both the crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS is Housing Works, headquartered in New York City. Since 1990, Housing Works has been able to provide

lifesaving services, such as housing, medical and mental health care, meals, job training, drug treatment, HIV prevention education, and social support to more than 20,000 homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.
It is both the largest community-based AND the largest minority-controlled AIDS service organization in the United States. In addition, in order to pay for the many services it provides, Housing Works runs different social enterprise businesses.
Our best-known businesses are Housing Works Thrift Shops, a chain of upscale thrift shops located throughout New York City, and the Housing Works Bookstore Café, a used bookstore, literary hub and concert venue located in Soho in downtown Manhattan.
These businesses are able to bring in millions of dollars in revenue each year.

One of the services provided that has truly made a difference in the lives of Housing Works clients is Harm Reduction. According to the Housing Works website:
Harm reduction is a treatment approach that Housing Works uses to encourage our clients to reduce the harm that they may do to themselves or others through substance use and/or unsafe sexual practices. Harm Reduction focuses on practical tools—for example, the constant and regular use of new syringes and male and/or female condoms—as well as emotional ones: We empower our clients to understand the full impact of their actions on their loved ones and their community.

Source: Housing Works

Through the Harm Reduction approach, their clients are able to learn safer injection methods and exchange for clean needles, as well as learn about safer, healthier sex practices. This approach allows their clients to remain safe even if they are engaging in risky activities known to increase the risk of HIV transmission. Housing Works personnel have found that this method can have a better effect as compared to demanding that the persons they serve adopt sudden, unrealistic changes in behavior, such as quitting substance abuse "cold-turkey" or abruptly ending sexual activity. This helps to empower their clients, and it allows then to have an active role in managing their HIV and their own lives.

In essence, Housing Works continues to be a pioneer in the fight against HIV/AIDS and homelessness, consistently looking for ways to reinvigorate their programs to keep them relevant and consistent with their clients' needs.For more information about Housing Works and their different programs, please check out www.housingworks.org/services.

Source: Housing Works


First things first, get your emotions out! It's your life, so it's ok to be scared, nervous upset, disappointed, or downright angry. If you need to cry, scream, shout, or throw things, do it. It's only AFTER you've done all those things that you'll be able to "clearly" think about your next steps.

you are no obligation to deal with your result the same way as someone else; everyone reacts differently. You can choose to do nothing about it, if that's what works best for you. However, the HIV will not just go away if you ignore the diagnosis. Also, if you choose not to do anything, and you are sexually active, your risk of transmitting the virus is higher than if you were being treated. But no one can force you to act. If taking control of the situation seems like it's NOT the option for you, you can just carry on with your life.

On the other hand, you can
make the decision to take action. You can get information about the virus, how it affects the body, and what kind of treatment is available for you. The sooner you begin treatment, the better affect it will have in prolonging your lifespan. Once you come to grips with the disease and realize that it doesn't define who you are, you will be able to become more confident in yourself and make more informed choices for your future.

If you choose to take action, there are a few things that are essential:

1) Make sure to seek out a physician who is knowledgeable about and specifically trained in HIV care. This will ensure that you are prescribed the right kind of medication for your unique condition and receive accurate information regarding virus progression and treatment.
2) Seek out all forms of information regarding HIV - Speak with other who are infected and READ! The Internet and other media forms provide a plethora of educational resources for you to learn all you can. Soak it all in so that each of your next steps going forward will be well-informed.
3) Remember you are not ALONE. The Internet is filled with thousands of stories of individuals who have contracted the virus and the way they have been able to cope. You can also join support groups to surround yourself with individuals who will be able to identify with your situation and can provide useful advice.
4) ASK QUESTIONS! If you are unsure about the effects of the virus or the medication, seek professional help. It's your life, you have the right to all the answers you need.
5) A Positive HIV result is NOT a death sentence. As mentioned in earlier posts, your life with HIV will be what you make it. If you make the decision to get treatment, adopt a healthier lifestyle and keep a positive outlook, there is no reason why you can't live a rich, long life.

No matter which path you choose after receiving your positive results, remember it's YOUR path to choose. No one can pressure or force you to take or not to take action. Take your time, and think about what you believe is best for your. It's your life, you choose.


One organization that is making HUGE strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, specifically in Africa, is Keep a Child Alive (KCA), a charity founded by Leigh Blake and nine-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys. According to the website, www.keepachildalive.org,

Keep a Child Alive is dedicated to providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, care and support services to children and their families with HIV/AIDS in Africa and the developing world by directly engaging the global public in the fight against AIDS.

Leigh Blake

Leigh Blake officially founded KCA in 2003. However, her involvement in the fight against AIDS began long before then. In the late 80s, as her career in the arts began to take off, Blake found she was losing her creative peers to AIDS. In 1989, she helped to found the Red Hot Organization, the seminal music industry initiative that raised funds for HIV/AIDS research and education by bringing together top artists such as David Byrne, Madonna, Annie Lennox, and U2. It was actually the proceeds from a Red Hot fundraiser that helped to lay the groundwork for KCA. For further details, read the following excerpt from the KCA website:

The seed of Keep a Child Alive was sown in Kenya in 2002. Royalties from Leigh Blake's previous fundraiser, Red Hot & Blue, built the AIDS Research and Family Care Clinic in Mombasa. A woman named Anne walked in to the clinic, desperate to obtain the anti-retroviral drugs her three-year-old son Brine needed to survive. At the time the medication's high cost was an impossible dream for most Africans to afford, and Leigh was so moved by this woman and her courage that she decided to pay for them.

Word of the children's desperate need for medication spread among Leigh's friends and colleagues, and soon they were offering to do the same. KCA Director Peter Edge became its first donor, and soon Alicia Keys passion for the issue drove her to become its first Global Ambassador.

What started as a very personal incident between two mothers has become a tremendous initiative for change. With around 3,000 children and family members on ARV treatment, over 45,000 people under our care, three orphanages receiving funding, and major clinic sites in expansion, Keep a Child Alive is making a direct impact in the lives of so many who need help.

Keep A Child Alive is only one of several organizations taking steps forward in the fight against AIDS. People of all races, backgrounds, and social positions have joined Leigh and Alicia to pool their resources and funds to provide life-saving medication for those affected in Africa with HIV/AIDS. It's important to keep these organizations in focus so that individuals will see that the fight, OUR fight, continues well past World AIDS Day on December 1.

For further information on KCA, check out www.keepachildalive.org

NEWSFLASH: HIV Can Penetrate a Woman's Healthy Genital Skin

In a recent article in HealthDay News, U.S. researchers explained that they have identified a new route of male-to-female transmission of HIV - a route in which HIV can travel through the healthy genital skin of a female to reach immune cells in just four hours.

Prior to this discovery, it had been believed that the normal lining of the vaginal tract was an effective barrier to HIV during sex, due to the idea that the large virus could not penetrate the tissue. Unfortunately however, researchers at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University found that HIV can penetrate normal, healthy genital tissue to a point where it can get to immune cells and infect them.

In their experiment, the researchers were able to track the viruses, using flourescent tags, as they penetrated the outermost lining of the female genital tract in female human tissue obtained through hysterectomy and in animal models.

This finding highlights even further the need for consistent latex condom usage, given that healthy, unbroken genital tissue is not a true barrier to the virus. The good news is, if this finding is confirmed in future studies and research, it could help in the development of new microbicides and vaccines to protect women against HIV. Given that women now make up approximately 50% of all persons living around the world with HIV, finding more methods of prevention have become more critical than ever.

Source: Yahoo! News


Of all the regions of the world impacted by HIV/AIDS, none has been more devastated by this crisis than Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the area of the African continent that lies south of the Sahara desert. Of the 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world, 22 million are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, of the 15 million orphans who lost their parents to AIDS, 11.5 million live in that region. In 2007, 1.5 million persons died from AIDS-related causes. During that same year, 68% of the global 2.7 million new HIV infections occurred in that region.

Some of the countries hardest in sub-Saharan Africa include South Africa
(5.7 million), Nigeria (2.6 million), Kenya (1.5-2.0 million), Mozambique (1.5 million), and Zimbabwe (1.3 million).

In looking at the primary methods of HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa, heterosexual intercourse remains the predominant method. In light of this fact, this region has also become home to the world's largest population of children living with HIV. Furthermore, in Demographic and Health Surveys in five African countries,
2/3 of the HIV-infected couples were found to be serodiscordant, meaning only one partner was infected. However, condom use was found to be rare in these couples. In fact, in Burkina Faso, one of the countries surveyed, 90% of the cohabiting couples said they DID NOT use condoms the last time they had sex.

Another mode of transmission that is an important factor is sex work, specifically in West Africa.
35% of female sex workers surveyed in 2006 in Mali were living with HIV. In Senegal and Burkina Faso, levels of infection exceeding 20% were documented among sex workers.

Staggering statistics like the above highlight the need for education and resources in this region. There are several organizations working to improve conditions in sub-Saharan Africa in regards to HIV/AIDS. With 22 million people living there with the disease, there is still plenty that can be done. Unfortunately, there will consistently be a need for funding, medication, counseling and education, and proper nutrition until we are able to get this pandemic under control.



Ready to see Inaction in action? On Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, Julia Rock, founder of Inaction Is Not An Option, will be a guest speaker at "The Face of AIDS" event at the St. Marks Methodist Church in Harlem, NY. The event will be hosted by MMHighlights, a rising society & entertainment blog anchored by an exceptional avant-garde of young marketers whose expertise lie in integrated marketing communications. The purpose of the event is to help commemorate December as AIDS Awareness Month by providing information, literature, and entertainment to members of the Harlem community. The proceeds from "The Face of AIDS" event will be given to the Harlem 40 Youth program, which aids in helping Harlem youth strive for better futures through educational, professional, and social development initiatives. Click the image below for further details.

For further details, please contact mmhighlights@gmail.com. Even if you are unable to make it, please share this event with someone else. We want to spread awareness and education faster than the infection. Knowledge saves lives, so pass this on!


Of all the cities around the U.S. that are severely impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, New York City tops the list. The City is home to approximately 99,000 persons that are living with HIV/AIDS, which is almost 10% of the total number of all individuals in the U.S. living with HIV/AIDS (1.1 million)*. Looking at the estimate by borough, Manhattan - 31%; Brooklyn - 25%; the Bronx - 22%; Queens - 14%, and Staten Island - 2%. Digging deeper by gender, men make up 70% of those living with HIV/AIDS; women make up the remaining 30%.

In terms of new infections, a recent study by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene showed that HIV is spreading in New York City at three times the national rate; an incidence of 72 new infections for every 100,000 people as compared to 23 per 100,000 nationally.

In 2006, an estimated 4,762 individuals became newly infected with HIV in New York City. Once again, looking at the estimates by borough, Manhattan accounted for 35% of all new infections; Brooklyn, 26%; the Bronx, 19%, and Queens, 17%.

Breaking down the statistics by gender, men accounted for approximately 75% of all new infections, with women making up the remaining 25%. From a racial standpoint, Blacks made up 46% of the new infections, Hispanics 32%, and Whites coming in third with 21%. However, these statistics quite disproportionate to the actual racial make-up of the city. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, White made up 44% of New York City's population, while Blacks and Hispanics were about the same at roughly 27% for each.

New York City has always been known for its diverse cultures, eclectic tastes, and broad horizons. Many people come to New York in search of a new home, new career, or an overall fresh start. However, as we've seen through the statistics above, New York is also a city that's in peril when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Even though there is an abundance of work being done in the city to combat the spread of this deadly pandemic, this information shows that there is, unfortunately, still so much left to do.

*All statistics are as of 2006
**Sources: NY Times, NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene


First things first, remember that an individual's HIV status is personal and legally protected. Should someone share that information with you, you must consider it highly confidential and NEVER share it with anyone else.

Remember that HIV is not casually transmitted or contagious like the common cold or chicken pox. The methods of transmission are few and very specific. This is the time when the individual may need your support and compassion, both physically and emotionally. Giving a hug, allowing the person to cry on your shoulder, or holding hands can give him (or her) the affection that he desperately needs, especially if the person is a friend, and you are at no risk to be infected. Many people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS face discrimination, negative stereotypes, and possible abandonment by family and/or friends. Given that the individual has trusted you enough to share this information with you, you may be the only person that he can turn to for sympathy, love, and affection. The last thing he will need is for you to treat him differently or in a discriminatory manner.* The person wants to know that you see him the same way, and that you will be there for him, no matter what the diagnosis.

Do remember that the person is potentially infectious if he is engaged in any of the high-risk activities, so it is important that you remind him not to have unprotected sex or to share needles with others, as well as disclose his HIV status when seeking/receiving health care.

Finally, remind your friend that an HIV diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. Now through the advancement of anti-retrovirals and other medications, many people who are diagnosed are able to lead longer and more productive lives. However, it is important that he finds a doctor that certified to treat HIV, so that he will be able to receive the appropriate treatments and medications. If your friend makes a conscious effort to lead a healthy lifestyle, maintains a nutritious diet, and remains consistent in taking his medication, there is no reason he cannot live a long, rich life, especially if he received an early diagnosis. In addition, explain that survival does not only depend on physical health, but mental health as well. Maintaining a positive outlook and perspective can make all the difference.

*Persons living with HIV or AIDS are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


On Friday, November 7, 2008, an article entitled "A Doctor, a Mutation, and a Potential Cure for AIDS" was published in the Wall Street Journal, discussing the possibility of a cure.

A 42-year old AIDS patient living in Berlin recently underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia, and the results were hopeful. According to the article, his doctor,
Gero Hutter, specifically replaced the patient's bone marrow cells with those of a donor who has a naturally occurring genetic mutation that renders his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV. Even though the patient is still recovering, his doctors have been unable to detect HIV in his blood for over 600 days! This is especially remarkable because he has stopped taking all conventional types of AIDS medication. Usually, when someone stops taking their AIDS medication, the virus once again charges through the body within days or weeks.

Even though this case may be just a chance occurrence, it does provide hope that gene-therapy approaches to a cure may be on the right track. However, gene-therapy is seen as being on the far edges of AIDS research, and can prove to be too expensive to roll out globally. Most gene therapy is characterized by removing cells, genetically modifying them outside of the body, and then transfusing them back in. In addition, gene-therapy has unfortunately seen its share of failures. In 1999, an 18-year old patient died in a gene therapy trial. Even as gene therapy was able to cure children of severe combined immunodeficiency disease, aka "bubble boy" disease, it also caused patients to develop leukemia.

Nonetheless, the article explains that current AIDS medication may prove to be unsustainable, especially since anti-retrovirals must be taken for life and are expensive for developing countries where the disease is heavily concentrated. Now the search for a cure has taken on a new sense of urgency. Furthermore, gene therapy is expected to eventually play a substantial role in modern medicine, and researchers are hopeful that this latest case in Berlin is a sign of good things yet to come, and a cure for AIDS may be on the horizon.

For the full article, check out http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122602394113507555.html


In completing some research, the CDC found specific risk factors and prevention barriers that can help to explain the disproportionate HIV/AIDS rates in the African-American community. Two of the primary risk factors are described below. Please note that race or ethnicity alone is NOT a risk factor for HIV infection.


In a study of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) recently conducted by the CDC, it was discovered that
46% of Black MSM were HIV-positive, as compared to 21% of white MSM and 17% of Hispanic MSM. Furthermore, of the Black MSM who were positive, 67% were unaware of their HIV infection, as compared to only 18% for White MSM. Many times Black MSM who do not identify themselves as gay have heterosexual women as wives and girlfriends. The men engage in sexual contact with other men, do not get tested (therefore are unaware of their status), and unknowingly pass along the infection to the women in their lives, translating into the extremely high rate of infection among Black women.


The CDC has found that the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are highest among African-Americans. In 2005, Blacks were about 18 times as likely as whites to have gonorrhea and about 5 times as likely to have syphillis. Due in part to the physical changes that STDs cause, the presence of certain STDs can increase a person's chances of contracting HIV by 3-5 times. In addition, if someone has both HIV and other STDs, his/her chance of spreading HIV to others has also increased dramatically.

HIV continues to be a growing problem among African-Americans. These posts help to highlight the need for further education, testing sites, and simple honesty among sexual partners. The only way for us to combat this disease is through both individual and collective responsibility. You must make the choice to be careful in your sexual activity, but there must be an opportunity for individuals to gain information about HIV as well as receive testing. There must also be resources available for those who are already positive and are aware of their status, providing access to medication and treatment, helping to increase life spans and decrease the rate of transmission.

For further information on risk factors and barriers to prevention, check out www.cdc.gov/hiv.


The one ethnic group that is most severely affected by HIV/AIDS in the U.S. is.....African-Americans. Since the beginning of the epidemic, Blacks have accounted for about 42% of the AIDS cases diagnosed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Currently, African-Americans make up roughly 12% of the U.S. population, but account for approximately 50% of the diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases.

In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses for Black adults and adolescents was
10 times the rate for whites and almost 3 times the rate for Hispanics. To fully understand these disproportionate statistics, we're going to dig a little deeper into the numbers as well as take a look at some root causes.

HIV/AIDS & African-American Men

Within the African-American population, men represent 64% of AIDS cases. In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses for Black men was 8 times the rate for white men. Furthermore, looking at the different ethnic populations of male adults and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS, Black men made up 41%.

Source: www.cdc.gov/hiv

In 2006, 40% of the men newly infected with HIV were Black.

In regards to methods of transmission among African-American men, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) accounted for
45% of Black men living with AIDS in 2006. Injection drug use (IDU) accounted for roughly 27%, and high-risk heterosexual contact accounted for about 19%.

HIV/AIDS & African-American Women

Seeing as men represent 64% of the AIDS cases within the African-American population, women represent
36%. In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses for Black women was nearly 23 times the rate of white women. Looking at different ethnic groups living with HIV/AIDS in 2005, Black women made up 64%.

Source: www.cdc.gov/hiv

AIDS is now the leading cause of death among black women ages 25-34.

HIV/AIDS & Youth and Children

Of the individuals
under the age of 25 whose diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was made during 2001-2004 in the 33 states with HIV reporting, 61% were Black. Even more disturbing, recent estimates have found that Blacks (non-Hispanic) ages 19-24 are approximately 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV than young adults in any other racial group. According to the international AIDS charity AVERT:

The overall infection rate among young Black people is 4.9 per 1,000 people, as compared to 0.22 per 1,000 people in all other racial groups.

Thanks to new treatment and the implementation of government prevention guidelines, the HIV rate among children and infants is now quite low. However, of the few infants that are still being born with HIV, a substantial number are African-American. Of the 135 infants diagnosed in 2006, 69% were Black.

So now the question becomes: Why is the HIV infection and AIDS diagnoses so disproportionately high in the African-American community? We'll examine some specific risk factors and barriers to prevention in Part II.

Post Sources: CDC.gov, Avert.org


We've taken the movement to MySpace! This gives a great opportunity to increase AIDS awareness among young (and not so young) people of the MySpace community while creating a network of individuals ready to take on the cause. So check us out at www.myspace.com/actionisnecessary. Add Inaction is Not an Option as your friend (you can use isdiffer@gmail.com to search), and get connected! We should also be on Facebook shortly, so stay tuned!


World AIDS Day is December 1, 2008! Some of you may be asking, "World AIDS Day? What?" As described by the World AIDS Campaign, World AIDS Day is the day on which individuals and organizations from around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic. Each year is given a theme, and the theme for 2008 is "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise - Leadership."

How did World AIDS Day start?

The idea for World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention by UNAIDS. UNAIDS maintained accountability for the organization of the annual World AIDS Day until 2005, when it transferred responsibility to an independent organization known as the World AIDS Campaign (WAC). AVERT.org describes the efforts of the WAC as follows:

The WAC's slogan for their work is "Stop Aids. Keep the Promise." This is an appeal to governments, policy makers, and regional health authorities to ensure that they meet the many targets that have been set in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and especially the promise of universal access to HIV treatment, care, support, and prevention services by 2010. The campaign will run until 2010 with a related theme chose for World AIDS Day each year.

World AIDS Day serves as a key opportunity that can be used to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and call others to get involved to combat this epidemic and help save lives. Wondering how you can get involved with World AIDS Day and do your part? Check out http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/en/Get-Involved. Also, continue to check back on the blog for World AIDS Day events and more information.

NEWSFLASH: Normandy High School Copes With HIV Scare

This past week, students at Normandy High School in St. Louis, Missouri faced an HIV infection scare when an unnamed infected individual explained to health officials that as many as 50 students at the school may have been exposed to HIV. The Health Department will not disclose how the exposure may have occurred. However, spokesman Craig LeFebvre said the possibilities include "sexual activity, intravenous drug use, piercings, and tattoos."

The students reported to the gymnasium to receive HIV testing as the school district consulted with national AIDS organizations in an effort to minimize the negative PR and prevent the virus from spreading through the school. There is also an effort to prevent gossip and misinformation from spreading as well. On Thursday, Normandy School District spokesman Doug Hochstedler said the following:

"There's potential for stigma for all students regardless of whether they're positive or negative. The Board wants to be sure all children are fully educated."

However, the negative reactions and backlash have already begun. One teacher in a neighboring school district actually singled out a girl dating a Normandy High School student to get tested. One female sophomore at Normandy, Jasmine Lane, explained that her boyfriend from a neighboring school broke up with her upon hearing the news of the possible HIV exposure. Another sophomore, Tevin Baldwin, explained that several of his classmates now want to transfer to another DISTRICT.

It is in situations like this where HIV/AIDS education is needed most. If the school and the district already had adequate education regarding HIV, there would be less panic, less disdain, and more comfort and resources for the person who had already tested positive. It is not until the reality of HIV hits home that people wake up, and they become interested in and clamoring for HIV awareness, education, and resources. Unfortunately, by then in many cases, it is already too late.

*For the full story, check out: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/10/23/high.school.hiv.ap/index.html


Some of you may be asking, "Just how bad is the global AIDS crisis?" As mentioned in the first post, AIDS has taken the lives of more than 25 million people since it was first recognized as a health issue in 1981. Overall, there are currently 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 1 million of which are in the United States. In 2007 alone, an estimated 2.7 million became newly infected with HIV with 68% of that being in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, another estimated 2.1 million died of HIV/AIDS-related causes.

Africa, by itself, has an estimated 11.6 million orphans who lost their parents to AIDS-related illnesses. There are 15 million AIDS orphans globally. To put things further into perspective for you, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide (59% in sub-Saharan Africa) at the end of 2007, and young people (those under the age of 25) accounted for 50% (yes, half!) of all new HIV infections worldwide. In subsequent posts, we will be looking at further HIV data, breaking it down by gender, age, and region.

In terms of treatment, there are 9.7 million people in developing and transitional countries who are in desperate need of life-saving AIDS medication. Tragically, only 2.99 million of these people are actually receiving the medication.

The most unfortunate part of reading the above statistics is the fact that the numbers primarily reflect only people who have been diagnosed, or at least tested, and their status reported. No one knows the total number of individuals worldwide who may be infected, unaware of their HIV status or unable to get any assistance or resources, and their infection not reported. Even though there is progress being made in order to increase the access of HIV-infected persons worldwide to anti-retroviral (ARV) medication (the main treatment for HIV/AIDS), as well as funding for researching a cure, there is still so much work left to be done.

*Sources: www.avert.org, www.who.int/hiv/en/index.html


First things first, you can't catch AIDS. I've heard that statement made so many times, but it's unfounded. As mentioned in the previous post, AIDS is the disease that develops as one's immune system is ravaged by the HIV infection. As for HIV, it is not transmitted casually. You cannot contract HIV through shaking hands, hugging, or casual kissing. Also, you can't become infected from toilet seats, doorknobs, drinking glasses, dishes, food, or pets. The reason is HIV is a very fragile virus, and it is unable to live outside the body for long. According to the CDC, the primary methods of HIV transmission are as follows:

  • Having sex (vaginal, oral, anal) with an HIV-infected individual
  • Sharing needles or syringes with an HIV-infected individual
  • Being exposed to HIV (as a fetus or infant) before or after birth; breast feeding
  • Receiving blood from an HIV-infected individual through a blood transfusion

HIV is found in high concentrations in blood (and other body fluids containing blood), semen, vaginal fluid, breastmilk. HIV has been found in the saliva and tears of HIV-infected persons, but in extremely low quantities. In addition, HIV has not been found in the perspiration of those infected with HIV. In fact, contact with the saliva, sweat, or tears of someone who is infected has never been shown to result in HIV transmission.

How can you protect yourself from contracting HIV? First, there's abstinence. Not just from sex, but also from the injection of illicit drugs and sharing needles. For those who may be rolling your eyes regarding abstinence, I know you're thinking, "This is not Health class in High School. Be real." If you do plan to be sexually active, or already are, make sure that you use a latex condom every time you have sex. Not just on holidays or on weekends, every time. Also, if possible, keep your sexual relationships monogamous. Your risk of infection increases as you increase your amount of sexual partners. If you do make the choice to inject drugs, make sure that you are consistently using clean needles and syringes. NEVER share your needles with anyone.

If you are engaging in either the above or any other potentially risky activities, please ensure that you are getting tested for HIV regularly, at least every six months. Even if you aren't engaged in the activities, but know someone who is, share this information with him/her. If you are looking for further information on how HIV is transmitted and the different ways to protect yourself and others, visit http://www.cdc.gov/hiv.


For those of you who may already be familiar with HIV/AIDS, I apologize if the below information seems redundant. However, in order to make progress, it is important to first gain a basic understanding of the infection, what it does to the body, and the progression to AIDS.


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. Infection with the virus results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, leading to "immune deficiency." The immune system is considered deficient when it can no longer fulfill its role of fighting infection and disease. Infections associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as "opportunistic infections," because they take advantage of a weakened immune system.


AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

  • Acquired – means that the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent (in this case, HIV).
  • Immunodeficiency – means that the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system.
  • Syndrome – refers to a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease. In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells in a person’s immune system.

Many times, you will hear that someone died of AIDS. That explanation is not entirely accurate. As mentioned above, HIV destroys the human immune system, rendering it powerless to fight infections. Once an infected individual's immune system is completely broken down, and he/she has developed full blown AIDS, the body is now susceptible to opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. It is such infections that cause the deaths of those suffering from AIDS, not the syndrome itself. Regrettably, someone with AIDS is unable to fight even the common cold.

*Sources: World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention (CDC)
For more in-depth information on HIV/AIDS and the body, check out www.cdc.gov/hiv or http://www.blogger.com/www.avert.org.

Call to Action

The AIDS epidemic is the worst health crisis to attack the world’s population since the bubonic plague (aka The Black Death), which wiped out more than 25% of Europe's population at the height of its prevalence in the 14th century. In fact, more than 25 million people have died since the first AIDS cases were identified in the U.S. in 1981. On average, 3 million people die each year. That’s equivalent to 20 fully-loaded Boeing 747 aircrafts crashing every day for A YEAR!

Currently, there are 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, HIV and AIDS are rarely talked about in our communities with any substance. I'm not talking about the few Rap-It-Up and Get Tested commercials that are played on BET every now and again. I'm talking about real education, understanding HIV and AIDS, who is affected, and how we can limit the spread of this epidemic and find a cure. Simply put, ANYONE can be infected with HIV. Not just homosexuals, the sexually frivolous, or drug users, ANYONE. Your parents, your pastors, your teachers, your co-workers, your best friends, the person sitting next to you right now as you read.....HIV does not discriminate or play favorites.

Inaction Is Not An Option is a movement that calls YOU to action to help combat the spread of HIV in the U.S. and around the world with three simple verbs: EDUCATE, PREVENT, TREAT. With people dying everyday from AIDS-related diseases, and thousands more becoming newly infected with HIV, this is too urgent a problem to ignore. Now some of you may be sitting back thinking,

"Well, I don't really know anyone who has HIV and/or has developed AIDS, so none of this really affects me. I don't have to get involved."
The question is, do you really want to wait until you do?

*Sources: www.ADRA.org, www.UNAIDS.org