Since the world began hearing about the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, about 12 million people have died. Today, it's estimated that more than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
As World AIDS Day approaches on Tuesday, there is still no cure for the disease, although researchers have made major strides in developing effective treatments. But preventing infection is still the most important thing for you to know. Here are some reminders on how to avoid getting it:
* Either abstain from sex or have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner. If neither is possible, practice safe sex and use condoms with receptacle tips. The virus is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, semen and vaginal fluid. Keep latex condoms handy, and store them in a cool place. Heat can make the latex break up. Use only water-based lubricants, not products such as oils and hand creams. The latter can make the condom break.
* The disease can be transmitted when needles used to inject drugs or medications are contaminated with HIV. Don't share needles.
* Given the risks associated with unprotected sex and sharing needles, avoid sex with someone who uses intravenous drugs.
* Avoid sex with someone who has had many sex partners--otherwise, you would be at the same risk as if you had had sex with all of your partner's partners.
* Toothbrushes, razors and other implements that could become contaminated with blood should not be shared.
How is the virus not passed along? Not through hugs, kisses or shaking hands with someone infected with HIV. And not through toilet seats, doorknobs and the like, or insect bites.
Source: StayWell Co. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.