Facts About HIV and AIDS We Need to Start Talking About

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In the past decades, there have been remarkable strides in the prognosis and quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as the introduction of drugs that lower the risk of even contracting the virus in the first place. However, there is still fear and stigma surrounding even the discussion of HIV and AIDS. So if you're ready to talk about HIV/AIDS, here are some facts to start with.

Read: The Scariest Millennial HIV Number Isn't How Many People Have It

36.9 million people worldwide are living with HIV.

Source: Aijaz Rahi/AP
Source: Aijaz Rahi/AP

According to the World Health Organization, of the around 36.9 million people who had HIV by the end of 2014, only 54% were aware of their status, estimates suggest. In 2015, "15.8 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally," according to the WHO.

An HIV test doesn't take long.

Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

According to the WHO, rapid diagnostic tests, which are often used to test for HIV, detect the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood and can give "same day test results," which means that people who are HIV positive can get their diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.

HIV and AIDS aren't the same thing.

Source: Firdia Lisnawati/AP
Source: Firdia Lisnawati/AP

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the name of the virus that causes AIDS. Once present in the body, HIV "attacks the body's immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is "the most severe phase of HIV infection ... People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses," according to the CDC.

No, you can't get HIV from a toilet seat.

Source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The virus doesn't survive very long outside of the body, so you can't get HIV from surfaces like toilet seats, doorknobs or dishes. You also can't get HIV from insects that spread other diseases, like ticks and mosquitoes. And you can't get HIV from hugging or holding hands with someone who is HIV positive. 

HIV is spread when certain body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk, come in contact with "damaged tissure," a mucous membrane (most body orifaces have mucous membranes) or are injected into the bloodstream, according to the CDC. More information about HIV transmission is available on the CDC's website.

The numbers of new HIV infections are falling, mostly.

Source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images
Source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images

According to the WHO, "between 2000 and 2015, new HIV infections have fallen by 35%." But in the United States, from 2008 to 2010, the number of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men rose by 12%, according to AIDS.gov. While some groups are more at risk for new infections that others, according to the website, "the estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable overall in recent years, at about 50,000 new HIV infections per year."