World AIDS Week: Get tested

The test is simple: a little finger pin prick or a mouth swap with results in minutes.

The solution is easy: condoms every time, unless you’re in a monogamous relationship.

The excuses are many: “I’m scared to know.” “I don’t like how it feels.”

More than 25 years after the emergence of a new, wildly scary disease, people are still living in ignorance. The latest statistics from the United Nations show that 39.5 million people throughout the world are living with HIV. 1.4 million in the United States are infected. More than 43,000 Americans are infected each year.

You might think that HIV doesn’t affect you. You might think you’re not at risk.

You might be wrong.

Nearly one out of every 200 Americans is infected — and 25 percent of them don’t know it yet. That means that someone in one of your classes may well have HIV. And someone you pass every day certainly has a friend or relative living with the disease.

This week, a number of campus organizations are sponsoring activities in support of Kent State’s World AIDS Week. Each day through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can visit tables in the Student Center to learn more about your personal risk.

For instance, young people — teenagers and college-aged people — are the fastest growing group infected with HIV. Women — particularly black women — are increasingly at risk. And gay and bisexual men and injection drug users remain at the highest risk.

You may read those groups and still think you have nothing to worry about. But even if your personal risk is minor, being safe during sex is smart and easy.

HIV is a surprisingly wimpy virus. It dies quickly when not in the human body, which is why you can’t catch it from hugs, kisses, swimming pools or toilet seats. That’s why the most effective tool you can use is condoms. Use one every time you have sex. Period.

The other important tool is testing. If you’re sexually active, you should be getting an HIV test every six months. Yesterday, the DeWeese Health Center provided anonymous, free HIV tests, something it does on a regular basis. If you missed the free testing and are worried you may be at risk, contact the center to find out how you can get tested.

Treatment of HIV infections has come a long way from the early 1980s when people learned they were sick and died within just months. Americans with HIV can expect to live as long as 24 years after infection if they seek treatment. Perhaps that’s why many of us aren’t as concerned as we used to be. Maybe that’s why some people aren’t informed and make unhealthy choices about sex.

But we should all remember: HIV is no longer a death sentence. But having HIV is certainly a difficult life, filled with terrible days and high medical costs.

That’s why, 26 years after the start of this global pandemic, the early guidelines we all learned are still the most important.

Be informed. Play safe. Get tested.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.