Fast Facts – HIV/AIDS

HIVHuman Immunodeficiency Virus

Link to cartoon image of HIV stigmaAIDSAcquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome

There are three stages of HIV infection.[1]

  • *Acute Infection – A flu-like symptomatic period in the weeks following infection, when a large amount of HIV cells are being produced.
  • *Clinical Latency – An asymptomatic period when HIV cells reproduce at a slower rate
  • *AIDS – CD4 cells fall from normal level of 500-1,500 cells to below 200 cells per cubic mm of blood, leaving body vulnerable to opportunistic infections

HIV/AIDS is spread through unprotected sexual contact; by sharing needles with an infected person; through transfusions of infected blood; or from mother to child in utero or through breastfeeding.

Addressing Stigma:

HIV/AIDS is NOT spread by saliva or through dry kissing, sweat, tears, sharing utensils or towels/bedding, swimming pools, telephones, toilet seats, biting insects.

The primary barrier to the effectiveness of HIV prevention and intervention programs is stigma.[2] The intersectionality of people who are at higher risk of contracting the disease experience stigma results in double-bias, and compounds efforts to engage and intervene in programming. Recognition of bias related to methods of transmission (sex workers, IV drug users, sexual orientation) and characteristics of people (race/ethnicity, religion, gender) must be incorporated into anti-stigma campaigns.[3]

The Denver Principles

The Denver Principles is a self-empowering manifesto, written by people who were living with AIDS in 1983, that outlined recommendations for healthcare providers, all people and people living with AIDS. It confronted stigma head-on, and was historically monumental, changing the conversation to one of self-empowerment. Read The Denver Principles here.

The Numbers

  • *More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV – one in six (16%) are unaware of their infection.[4]
  • *The number of new infections each year appears to have stabilized, but is still too high – more than 50,000 Americans will become infected this year.[5]
  • *Each year, more than 15,000 people die from complications caused by AIDS in the United States.[6]
  • *The largest number of new HIV infections occurs amongst men having sex with men of all ethnicities, followed by African American heterosexual women.[7]

A National Perspective

National data indicates that the annual rate of diagnosis is highest in the South (13.7 per 100,000 people), followed by the Northeast (12.3 per 100,000), the West (5.4 per 100,000) and the Midwest (5.8 per 100,000)[8]

Since 2008, infection rates in the Northeast and West have declined, and have remained level in the Midwest and the South.[9]

New drug advancements and treatment regimens have dramatically improved the quality of life for people with HIV/AIDS.

A Global Perspective

Since the epidemic began, more than 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 39 million have died from complications of AIDS. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 35 million people living with HIV.[10]


[1] (Accessed November 20, 2014)
[2] Reidpath, DD, and Chan, KY. A method for the quantitative analysis of the layering of HIV-related stigma. Care, May 2005;17(4): 425-432
[3] Ibid
[4] Center for Disease Control (CDC.) Monitoring selected national HIV prevention and care objectives by using HIV surveillance data – United States and 6 U.S. dependent areas – 2011. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2013;18(No. 5). Available at: Published October 2013. (Accessed November 15, 2014
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Ibid
[8] CDC. (Accessed November 24, 2014)
[9] Ibid
[10] United Nations AIDS. November 24, 2014)

Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.

2016 Spotlight Topics:

February 2016 – Eating Disorders

March 2016 – Gender

April 2016 – Substance Abuse

May 2016 – Mental Illness

June 2016 – Older People

July 2016 – Facial Differences

August 2016 – Cancer

September 2016 – Caregivers

October 2016 – Learning Disabilities

November 2016 – Gender Identity

December 2016 – HIV