World AIDS Day

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, which raises awareness of the AIDS pandemic. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is the final stage of an infection caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which attacks the body’s immune system and hurts its ability to fight off diseases and other infections.

Texas saw 4,391 new HIV diagnoses in 2017, according to DSHS. The state’s health facilities must report cases of the infectious disease regardless of its stage at the time of diagnosis.

For the past 10 years, the number of new HIV diagnoses each year has remained relatively static, ranging from just over 4,000 to nearly 4,500. At the same time, the overall number of people living with HIV in Texas has increased about 4 percent each year because effective treatment is improving health and preventing deaths.

“Going back 23 years before the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy, there was not a whole lot that could be done for somebody who contracted HIV,” said Greg Beets, Health Communications and Community Engagement Group manager in the DSHS TB/HIV/STD Section. “We are now seeing people with HIV living much longer and healthier lives.”

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, also offers hope for reducing the number of new HIV cases in Texas. PrEP is anti-HIV medication for people who are HIV-negative and at high risk of contracting the virus. The medication, taken daily, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent.

HIV is usually transmitted through sexual activities or injecting drug use. Only certain body fluids — blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid and breast milk — can transmit HIV. It can’t be spread through the environment or casual contact, which means you can’t contract the disease through:

  • Handshakes
  • Hugs or casual touching
  • Close working conditions
  • Phones, office equipment or furniture
  • Sinks, toilets or showers
  • Dishes, utensils or food
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Air
  • Water
  • Insects

Working alongside a person with HIV or AIDS doesn’t elevate your risk of contracting the infection. You should always practice precautions when you come into contact with body fluids to protect yourself from HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Learn more about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases at the DSHS HIV-STD webpage.

To see a list of testing locations and service providers, visit knowmystatus.org.