In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on five previously healthy homosexual men who were sick with an unusual form of pneumonia. The cases stood out because normally, that type of pneumonia only struck people with compromised immune systems. According to the History channel, a year later, 335 people had been affected, with 136 dying – and it was clear there was a new immune system disorder out there.

By September of 1982, the disease had a name: AIDS, and by 1984, researchers knew the cause – the HIV virus, the History channel reports.

Fast forward to today. It’s 2019, and 38 years have passed since the CDC first reported on the disease.

And yet, according to a recent survey by Merck and the Prevention Access Campaign, misinformation about AIDS and HIV is still staggeringly prevalent.

The survey found that 28 percent of HIV-negative millennials have avoided hugging, talking to or being friends with someone who is HIV-positive.

And, 23 percent of HIV-negative millennials and 41 percent of HIV-negative Gen Z respondents said they were either “not at all” informed or “only somewhat” informed about HIV.

Frankly, it’s terrifying to think that, despite the passage of time, there is still so much misinformation out there on HIV and AIDS.

So let’s take a moment to recap the facts from the CDC website:

• HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if not treated.

• HIV is spread through specific bodily fluids such as blood or semen which must come in contact with a mucous membrane, damaged tissue, or be directly injected into the bloodstream

• Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use

• HIV is NOT spread by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth kissing, nor is it spread by mosquitoes, air, water or pets. Saliva, tears and sweat also will not transmit HIV.

• HIV can be prevented by using condoms properly, choosing less risky sexual behaviors, and limiting the number of sexual partners

• There is no cure, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled, and patients can live long, healthy lives.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to be tested, and that is incredibly important, because early detection and treatment can make a tremendous difference. Learn more about testing locations at gettested.cdc.gov.

It’s been almost 40 years since this disease first emerged in the U.S. – and there is no reason to stigmatize people because of it. Instead, conquer that fear with some facts, and leave the stigmas behind.

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