Today is World AIDS Day – an opportunity to remember those impacted by HIV/AIDS, look back at its history and toward future developments that may prevent limit its spread. 

HIV was first identified in the United States in 1981.  In the early 1980’s, public health efforts focused heavily on identification of the virus.  Once the virus was identified, resources have gone to develop drugs to treat the virus, vaccines and other methods to prevent infection.  According to the CDC, more than  55,000 people are infected with HIV each year in the US, 18,000 plus die from AIDS each year and about one million people are living with HIV in the US.  But about 1 in 5 people with HIV don’t know they are infected and are unknowingly transmitting the infection.  The US numbers are small compared to the global numbers – 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and 2 million die from AIDS each year. 

While HIV/AIDS numbers are high – they are only a part of the public health fight against disease. Most deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease (over 8,700,000 deaths annually).   However, over 9 million people die each year from infectious diseases.  The  majority of these deaths are caused by common respiratory and diarrheal infections due to poor sanitation and limited access to health care. 

No matter what disease you are looking at – you, the public, must take an active role to protect yourself with healthy habits.  Eat healthy foods, exercise, wash your hands, don’t take part in risky behaviors.  Today is World AIDS Day – a good time to look at what you are doing and protect yourself and your family.