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Since the 1980's there have been many medical advances that have made having AIDS a more livable condition, prior to these advents HIV/AIDS was a death sentence one week, one month, one year if one was lucky. Today there are many people living with HIV/AIDS for ten, fifteen, or twenty or more years, but even still there are many people that are unknowingly infected and are spreading with virus, through unsafe sexual practices, sharing of drug paraphernalia and even breast feeding. With new prescription drugs on the market, giving a new lease on life, and a false sense of security, it is easy to understand why in the United States there are statistics like the CDC results, people are learning to just accept HIV/AIDS as a way of life and not see it for the killer virus that it is. With the statics like the one above it further appears that an emphasis on prevention and education needs to be addressed.
There are a handful of known preventative measures to HIV/AIDS as it pertains to sexual contraction. Abstinence is the most effective preventative measure to HIV/AIDS as it relates to sexual contact, although widely accepted and proven method, people are still going to engage in sexual activity. Another method of prevention as it relates to sexual conduct is the use of condoms while having sex. This method has not been as widely accepted due to the connotation that condoms have in different aspects of life, condoms are seen as a birth control method and not a STD prevention method. In the past years, the use of condoms has not been taught in schools in the United States, the political policies that were in place were abstinence only programs, which were in schools nationwide. Current political policy has since changed and alternative programs are being explored, including the use of condoms and providing condoms to children in school. Proper HIV testing and the education on how to obtain a test and where to obtain a test is an prevention strategy that is effective in both detection of new HIV cases and using those result to help prevent people from spreading the virus. As previously stated the use of antiviral medications are being used, these medications are also being tested as a prevention tool for spreading HIV by reducing the viral load in the positive person, and as also by the non positive person using the medications prior to having sexual activity with an HIV positive person, this method is also being used for mother to child transmission.
Prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission is determined by two main areas. The first is prevention and education of people that are not currently infected with the virus to provide methods and tools for maintaining the negative status. The second area is education of the persons infected with the virus on prevention methods so that they do not continue to pass the virus to others. The above areas break down further into four preventative opportunities and the time frame of prevention for each, before the exposure, can provides years of protection, at the moment of the exposure which is provided protection in hours, after the exposure this opportunity is also in hours, and then the infected HIV again in the years timeframe (Cohen, Kaleebu, & Coates, 2008). At each of the four opportunities there are preventative measures that can be taken such as condom use for prior to exposure, vaccines and anti viral medications for both moment of and after exposure, and both behavior modification and including antiviral medications for post infection (Cohen, Kaleebu, & Coates, 2008). Research studies are currently being completed on the use of antiviral medications and microbicides to determine further uses. The major areas in prevention and education are the pre and post infection stages, to help stop infection and the spread of infection.
Around the world there are many research projects addressing the precise issues in HIV/AIDS prevention. One of the more recent methods being used in Africa is male circumcision, this method is near useless in the United States due to a large portion of males already being circumcised. Another method is the use of antiviral therapy in sex workers in order to reduce the likely hood of transmission, this although a major breakthrough also is limited to work here in the U.S. The largest portion of population in the US is men who have sex with men closely followed by heterosexual sex, African American men almost twice as high as whites, and people ages 20-24 and 25-29 (Centers for Disease, 2010). They also show that the three highest states in order are New York, California and Florida. Behavioral prevention is one of the most common preventative measures being used in the United States. The methods in involve condom use on a regular basis, abstinence from sex, limiting and reducing the number of sexual partners, and reduced needle sharing or syringe exchange for IV drug users (Cohen, Hellmann, Levy, DeCock, & Lange, 2008). Multiple research projects have been completed on peer education around the world in different demographics of people such as commercial sex workers, factory workers, IV drug users, people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, and youth. Most of the studies, all but one has a positive impact on behaviors as it pertains to HIV and sexually transmitted infections (Kerrigan, 1999). When it comes to youth or adolescents there appears to be a disconnect with the adolescents in the studies that have been researched. In a review of 13 studies by there appeared to be no overall benefit for peer education in adolescents for increased use of preventative measure, they do however find that as it pertains to attitudes, knowledge and intentions there was improvements (Free, & Kim, 2008). A study using 1950 students from 10 high schools in Shanghai was completed on peer education as it pertains to preventive measures of HIV. The study consisted of 968 students in the intervention group and 982 students in the control group and 10 peer educators. The students were tested one month after the intervention and then again one year after the intervention. The study showed that the there was significant difference between the control and intervention groups as it pertained to HIV/AIDs related knowledge at the one month test (Cai, Hong, Shi, Ye, & Xu, 2008). The intervention group also showed that they would use condoms in the future during sexual intercourse (Cai, Hong, Shi, Ye, & Xu, 2008). The study then completed a follow up at the one year mark and the intervention continued to show that it was higher than the control group, but no significant difference then the one month tests (Cai, Hong, Shi, Ye, & Xu, 2008).
Another study shows that the use of peer educators has a positive effect on attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS and may have an effect on behavioral change. The study was based in Turkey and completed on students on a college level of education. The students ranged in age from 18-21 years old.
Cai, T, Hong, H, Shi, R, Ye, X, Xu, G., Li, S., & Shen, L. (2008). Long-term follow-up study on peer-led school-based hiv/aids prevention among youths in shanghai. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 19, 848-850.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Divisions of HIV/AIDS Prevention. (2010). Basic statistics Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic.htm
DeNoon, D.J. . (2010, September 23). 1 in 5 gay/bi men have hiv, nearly half don't know. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/news/20100923/1-in-5-gay-bi-men-have-hiv-nearly-half- dont-know
Free, C., & Kim , C.R. (2008). Recent evaluations of the peer-led approach in adolescent sexual health education: a systematic review. International Family Planning Perspectives, 34(2), 89-96.
Kerrigan, D. (Ed.). (1999). Peer education and hiv/aids. Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS