HIV, AIDS, awareness
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HIV/AIDS Awareness Month

HIV and AIDS Awareness Month takes place in December to educate people about the conditions, remember those who have died and celebrate victories in achieving new medical treatments and overcoming stigmas related to the disease. According to AIDS. gov, 1 million Americans are living with the disease. Chances are, some of your employees may be battling the illness or are caring for someone who is.This Meeting in a Box is a valuable tool to help you and your workforce learn and have candid discussions about HIV and AIDS, and begin to dispel myths surrounding them. In this packet, we provide a basic primer on what HIV and AIDS are, a timeline of historic events and medical breakthroughs surrounding the illnesses, facts and figures on Americans living with the conditions and an info sheet that dispels stereotypes, myths and fears surrounding them.

Click HERE to download a PDF version of the HIV/AIDS Awareness Month Meeting in a Box, our diversity-management training and educational tool available only to Benchmarking customers and DiversityInc Best Practices subscribers.

1. PRIMER: WHAT IS HIV/AIDS?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune cells — the cells that fight infection. Because HIV weakens the immune system, it makes a person more vulnerable to other infections. HIV can be spread by contact with certain bodily fluids, so it is spread most commonly during unprotected sex or through sharing dirty needles, such as those used to inject drugs. Untreated HIV can cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), where the body’s immune system is severely damaged because of the virus. Without HIV medicine, people with AIDS typically have a life expectancy of around three years. If someone with AIDS develops an opportunistic infection (OI) — an infection that takes advantage of a weakened immune system — their life expectancy falls to about one year.

In a human with a healthy immune system, the number of CD4 cells per cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood is between 500 and 1,600 cells. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that play a crucial role in the immune system by finding and destroying invading bacteria, viruses and germs. A person with HIV is considered to have progressed to AIDS when their CD4 count falls to 200/mm3, or when they develop an OI. Some of the most common OIs in people with HIV/AIDS include the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), a virus that can cause sores on the lips and mouth and salmonella, a bacterial infection that affects the intestines.

The human body cannot get rid of HIV, and no effective cure exists as of now. But HIV medicine called antiretroviral therapy (ART) can prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS and also prevent the transmission of the virus to sexual partners. ART usually includes a combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop its progression. Now, in the U.S., most people with HIV do not develop AIDS because they have access to ART. Additionally, medications like preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) can help prevent a person from acquiring HIV if they may be or have been at risk of it, either from sexual intercourse with or exposure to the blood of an infected person.

Testing for HIV usually consists of a blood test or oral swab, and early detection can help prevent its spread and progression to AIDS. With proper medical care, people with HIV can live long lives. Though awareness and treatment have improved since the frightening AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s, the medical community still is fighting for a cure.

Discussion Questions for Employees

  • Based on personal experience or historical knowledge, what do you already know about HIV/AIDS?

  • How does our company offer to support people with the illnesses? Are they made to feel comfortable disclosing their condition?

2. HIV/AIDS Timeline

Though the outbreak of HIV/AIDS is in relatively recent history, the shockwaves it sent through the U.S. and the world changed society, LGBTQ rights and the medical field. We recommend you continue your employees’ cultural competence training with an overview of the important events that have affected the treatment of — and views toward — HIV/AIDS and the people who are infected.

Discussion Questions for Employees

  • Because the start of the AIDS epidemic was just a few decades ago, you or some of your employees may remember it. Take this opportunity to discuss the immediate effects the outbreak had on society. Did coverage of it spark misinformation and fear? How did people feel after more information became available?
  • How is HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy tied to other issues like race, socioeconomic status and LGBTQ rights?

  • What role can we as individuals — or a company — play in advocating for people with HIV/AIDS and working toward a cure?

Download a copy of the Timeline HERE.

3. Facts & Figures

After discussing the timeline, the next step is to review available data and understand demographics of people with HIV and AIDS and statistics important in continuing understanding of those living with the illness, because it is especially important for those responsible for recruiting people with diverse abilities.

The data we have selected presents racial/ethnic, gender, age, sexuality, drug use and other dependent areas, showing those affected by HIV come from diverse demographics.

Discussion Questions for Employees

  • What does our company do to hire and support employees with disabilities and illnesses like HIV/AIDS?

    How do we promote these programs? Is it widely known what resources are available? If we don’t have any programs currently in place, what are some ideas we can implement?

  • With improved treatment options, people with HIV can live much longer, healthier lives. What can this mean for our company and the people we choose to hire?

  • How does the contraction of AIDS relate to racial, sexual and socioeconomic demographics? How can we help break down barriers of privilege and disadvantage to make sure everyone has equal access to preventative education and treatment?

Download a copy of the Facts & Figures HERE

4. Fact Check: Misconceptions About HIV/AIDS

Misconceptions about people with HIV/AIDS have long fueled hysteria surrounding the illnesses and led to the fear and stigmatization of people who have them. People with HIV/AIDS deserve our support and care. The more we know about the conditions, the more power we have over them. Share this fact sheet with your employees to help dispel myths surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Discussion Questions for Employees

  • What are some common misconceptions about HIV, how it is spread and the people affected by it? How can these misconceptions lead to fear and fear lead to the marginalization of people with the disease?
  • How can we use our knowledge to correct people’s misconceptions about HIV/AIDS?

  • How can having accurate knowledge about HIV/AIDS help us create a more inclusive environment?

Download a copy of the info sheet HERE.

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