World AIDS Day: Continuing the Fight against HIV/AIDS
 
Each year, on the first of December, people all over the globe recognize World AIDS Day. HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a global pandemic, and World AIDS Day gives people the opportunity to acknowledge the fight against HIV, show their support for those living with HIV, and remember those who have died. Although World AIDS Day has passed, the discussion on HIV/AIDS continues, and Benefits.gov is here to share HIV/AIDS-related resources to help you stay aware.

Globally, estimates show that more than 30 million people are living with HIV. According to AIDS.gov, HIV is a virus that, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS, which is the final stage of the HIV infection. HIV/AIDS affects the immune system, and AIDS is generally fatal if contracted. Luckily, having HIV is no longer a death sentence, and HIV transforms into AIDS less frequently thanks to medical advancements and thorough research. HIV can be controlled with antiretroviral therapy, preventing those infected from contracting AIDS, and helping them live healthy and fruitful lives.

HIV is spread via direct contact of bodily fluids, and is therefore not spread easily. In the United States, the virus generally spreads by sexual contact or intravenous drug use. Less commonly, HIV is spread through:

  • Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding from infected mothers
  • Occupational exposure
  • Blood transfusions/organ transplants

There are plenty of ways to lower your risk of contracting HIV and to help spread awareness about the pandemic. One of the most important ways to stay aware of your HIV status is to get tested. It's usually simple and easy: there are low-cost HIV testing centers all over the country. Learn about reducing your risk on the AIDS.gov website, research the different types of tests, and use the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator to find out where to get tested near you.

There are also a number of federal benefits available to those with HIV and those researching it. For instance, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides housing assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS. To qualify, you must have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and meet certain income standards.

Another program, the AIDS Research Loan Repayment Program, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), helps to assure an adequate supply of trained researchers with respect to AIDS at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by providing for the repayment of educational loans for participants who contractually agree to engage in AIDS research as employees of the NIH. U.S. citizens and permanent residents that qualify for laboratory or clinical research, have a health professional doctoral degree or equivalent, have student loan debt, and are employed by the NIH may be eligible for this program.

The keys to fighting HIV are being aware of the issue and taking the necessary steps to prevent or manage a diagnosis. There are dozens of other HIV/AIDS-related benefits on Benefits.gov, and we hope you will take a look at them and share them with loved ones.

 

HIV/AIDS