Recently, Charlie Sheen, an actor, set the entertainment world ablaze by revealing he is HIV positive. Sheen made his announcement on NBC’s Today Show, informing the world he has been positive for 4 years. He was diagnosed after going to doctors concerning cluster headaches and night sweats. Although Sheen’s revelation has reopened dialogue concerning the virus, a lot of people remain uniformed or unbothered. It is pertinent that we educate ourselves about HIV and what we can do to protect ourselves.

What is HIV?

HIV is the acronym for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV can cause AIDS and interferes with the bodies ability to fight infections by stacking t-cells. The chronic virus is incurable and requires treatment.

How is HIV spread?

According to the CDC, HIV is primarily spread through sexual intercourse or sharing injection needles with someone who has the virus. Fluids that carry the virus include blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. In order for someone to contract the virus, one of the aforementioned fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane, damaged tissue, or be injected into the bloodstream. The reason why HIV is commonly spread through sexual intercourse is because mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, vagina, opening of the penis, and the mouth.

Currently in the U.S, more than 1.2 million people have HIV.

According to Care Resource, Miami accounts for about 26,760 of those cases. That doesn’t include people who have AIDS or other STI’s. Florida Health states that in 2014, of the 412,307 people tested, 4,127 were positive, a 12% increase from 2013. Miami Dade Matters breaks it down further, for every 100,000 people in Miami, 53.9 contract HIV. By ethnicity, for every 100,000 people, 43.3 Hispanics, 111.4 Blacks, and 43.3 Whites contract the virus.

It is imperative that everybody is responsible, takes preventative measures, and gets tested often. Preventative measures include using condoms, testing partners before engaging in sexual activities, or abstaining from sex.

When was the last time you were tested?

Test Miami is heading a new initiative in collaboration with FIU School of Public Health and the School of Journalism, as well as plenty other organizations. Their goal is to promote routine HIV testing, improve understanding of HIV, and reduce the transmission of HIV. You can visit www.testmiami.org for free condoms, educational resources, and HIV testing sites, most of which administer free testing.

Make sure you know your status.