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). 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 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:


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.



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


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 or

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?