HIV/AIDS: What’s Changed in 25 Years?
Originally Published: May 14, 2019
Revised: June 3, 2019
A lot has changed since the first publication of Sex, Etc. 25 years ago. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is accurate information in Sex, Etc. about sexual health issues, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). I was interested in how the conversation around HIV/AIDS has shifted over the past 25 years, both overall and in Sex, Etc.
What Is HIV?
First, it’s important to fully understand what HIV is. HIV is a virus that can be transmitted via the following bodily fluids: blood, semen, pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. When someone gets HIV, the virus makes it harder for a person to fight off infections. HIV transmission can be prevented by properly using condoms every time a person has oral, anal or vaginal sex. Even though HIV is incurable, it can be managed with medical care and by taking medications that help keep a person’s immune system strong. If HIV goes untreated, it has the potential to develop into AIDS or stage 3 HIV, which is when a person’s immune system is severely damaged by HIV.
While HIV is still a threat, research has resulted in treatments to help manage HIV symptoms and stop the onset of AIDS.
Back in 1994
When Sex, Etc. first came on the scene, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a big focus. The first issue included an interview with a medical doctor about STDs, including HIV, as well as a review of a book called What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS by Magic Johnson, the former basketball player who is HIV positive. The interview and the review both talk about abstinence, fighting “the pressures to have sex” and practicing safer sex if someone decides to have sex.
Today, our articles include adult experts when appropriate, but typically focus on the voices of teens, so we can hear directly from teens about their experiences. In articles about STDs, abstinence continues to be the only way to completely avoid an STD, like HIV, but articles also put a strong emphasis on communication with partners and health care providers, getting tested and safer sex, if someone chooses to have sex.
Research and New Developments
Condoms were the only way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission 25 years ago. Today, in addition to condoms, there are medications called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that can be taken daily to reduce the risk of getting HIV if a person has not been exposed to HIV. Along with condom use, PrEP can greatly reduce the risk of getting HIV.
An HIV diagnosis was often seen as a death sentence 25 years ago; the first issue of Sex, Etc. talked about “the deadly threat of HIV infection.” While HIV is still a threat, research has resulted in treatments to help manage HIV symptoms and stop the onset of AIDS.
One crucial aspect of treating HIV is early intervention. Today, if a person is HIV positive, treatments can decrease the amount of the virus (viral load) in their body. These treatments can even lead to some people having an “undetectable viral load,” according to the Centers for Disease Control, which means they have “effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.” This is amazing! These advancements have improved the lives of people living with HIV and could help greatly reduce the transmission of HIV.
A Better Understanding
Today, we have a better understanding of who is affected by HIV/AIDS. When Sex, Etc. was first published, it was known that HIV/AIDS did not only affect gay men, but many continued to believe this myth. Anyone having sex with someone who is HIV positive, regardless of sexual orientation, can get HIV. And the only way you know someone is HIV positive is if they get tested. To Sex, Etc.’s credit, our first issue included a line about how “gender, sexual orientation, age or race does not determine whether someone gets HIV.”
Although much has changed in terms of HIV testing, treatment and prevention, many of the facts remain the same. HIV is an incurable disease that can be sexually transmitted. At Sex, Etc., we continue to stress the importance of communicating with partners and health care providers, testing before having sex and safer sex. Conversations like these can protect both you and your partner from STDs like HIV.
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