By Jenny Contreras, intern contributor, American Red Cross
Today marks the 28th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Each year, World AIDS Day is held on the 1st of December, and it is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
It is important to recognize the distinction between HIV and AIDS. HIV is a virus that, once contracted, cannot be gotten rid of. AIDS is the final stage of the HIV virus that is typically developed when HIV is left untreated. Not all people with HIV have AIDS, however, no safe and effective cure for HIV currently exists. Scientists are working hard to find one, and remain hopeful, while other treatment options are available to slow the virus’ process. To learn more about the differences and treatment options, visit aids.gov.
HIV continues to be a alarming public health issue in the United States. According to the Centers of Disease Control of Disease Control (CDC), more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8%) are unaware of their infection.
With these distressing numbers, blood donors are often times concerned with their blood safety. In the United States, our government works to ensure that our blood supply is among the safest in the world. Blood is considered a prescription drug in the United States, so it is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At the Red Cross, all safety precautions recommended by the FDA are implemented to insure each dose of blood is safe.
When a donor donates blood to the American Red Cross, their blood is processed and tested before it is stored and distributed. During the testing phase, a dozen tests are performed on each unit of donated blood.
These tests establish the blood type and test for infectious diseases, including:
- Chagas (anti-trypanosoma cruzi)
- Hepatitis B virus
- HIV 1, 2 (human immunodeficiency viruses types 1&2)
- Syphilis (treponema pallidum)
- West Nile virus
Testing for HIV in blood donation screening began in 1985 and since then many improvements have been made.
Several government agencies and nonprofits are invested in preventing HIV infection and its related illness and death. Healthy People, a program of nationwide health promotion and disease prevention goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has made it their goal for 2020 to reduce new incidences of HIV in the U.S. Other organizations that deliver health and human services, like the American Red Cross, have also made it their mission to reduce new incidences of HIV.
To help prevent HIV infection, the American Red Cross Biomedical Services has made it their mission to fulfill the needs of the American people by delivering the safest, most reliable and most cost-effective blood services through voluntary donations. The American Red Cross is the leader in research and testing to protect the safety of the blood supply.
If you are interested in donating blood, you can visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information.