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AIDS hasnt disappeared

The color pink was a predominant force on the USF campus. In fact, all across the nation in October, food products, clothing and even football teams were adorned with the color in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

However, with the arrival of December and World AIDS Day, the symbolic red ribbon does not get the same publicity. World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS virus, takes place every year on Dec. 1.

Why are Americans so quick to sport pink ribbons, pink jewelry, and other pink products during October and yet so hesitant to even talk about HIV/AIDS? Perhaps it is because the many misconceptions and myths surrounding the virus.

The truth is that HIV/AIDS does not only affect people of Sub-Saharan Africa, homosexuals and drug users. It is an epidemic that exists in the U.S.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates on its website that there are 1.1 million people living with the HIV infection and that more than 597,499 have died of the virus since the first major outbreaks in the early 1980s. That means a number equivalent to the entire population of Las Vegas have died after developing the disease.

According to the CDC, of the 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., one in five is unaware of his or her condition.

Considering such a high percentage of the population is unaware of their condition, there is a high risk of spreading the disease. The CDC estimates that approximately 56,300 Americans become infected with HIV each year with 18,000 dying. Every nine-and-a-half minutes in the U.S., another person contracts the HIV virus, according to the CDC.

USF students are not immune from the dangers of the virus. Florida has the third largest HIV/AIDS population in the nation, with more than 100,000 reported people living with the disease.

There is no “look” that identifies a person living with HIV/AIDS. Many people that have the disease may not know it because HIV symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses and remain dormant for years.

If students are unaware of the statistics surrounding HIV/AIDS, they are putting themselves at a greater risk of contracting the disease. There are several precautions people can take to reduce the risk of getting HIV/AIDS, the first of which is going to a clinic and getting tested.

By knowing if one carries the disease, one can spare countless others from contracting it through blood transmissions or unprotected sex. Getting tested for HIV/AIDS is an easy process, and many clinics in the Tampa area offer it as a free service.

It is often said that people are afraid of what they don’t know or understand.

There are many misconceptions regarding the HIV/AIDS virus and it is imperative that students learn the truth.

Anyone can fall victim to the disease, and only through testing and raising awareness can this epidemic be combated.

Natalie Wood is a sophomore majoring in international studies and Italian.