Images in the media and social networks of medical personnel fighting Ebola in full body protection suits have been alarming. Especially in the face of the two American health workers who probably took precautions but got sick anyway. It somewhat makes you feel like we all should be wearing gloves and not touch surfaces when out of the house.
These spooky feelings exist even though there has been only one death in the US from someone who contracted the disease in Liberia and those currently being cared for in the US also got sick overseas. Imagine our panic if there were over a million Ebola infections in the US and out of that, one in six doesn’t know they are infected. That’s the alarming number of people living with HIV stateside.
My Facebook newsfeed has been blowing up with comments urging that the dialogue urging health awareness around Ebola also be directed to a disease more pervasive and preventable, HIV/AIDS. And that makes sense.
Getting tested if you are sexually active and using protection that you can carry in a wallet is all it takes to get a strong handle on AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 50,000 people in the United States are newly infected with HIV each year. In 2010 (the most recent year that data are available), there were an estimated 47,500 new HIV infections.
I guess because no one dies a feverish, body wracking, bloody hemorrhagic death with HIV, the sense of self preservation is on a lower level than with Ebola. But let’s face it… In the United States you stand a better chance of catching an STD or HIV before getting Ebola. So get tested, know your status and use protection.