According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2015. Of these, 1.8 million were children younger than 15 years old. An estimated 2.1 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2015. Recently Apple released a new iPhone color in support of HIV/AIDS research. Their partnership with (RED) campaign has been in action for 10 years, and they have raised over $130 million dollars through the sale of (RED) products in the app store and now with the new special edition red iPhone.
Lucy Reed*, a local Dripping Springs resident and regular at Hill Country Ranch Pizzeria, suffers from HIV, and on a slow Sunday night I was gifted with the unlikely opportunity to talk with her.
“There is so much discrimination against people who have AIDS,” she said. “We’re looked at as though we’re animals or people with poor morals when really, we are productive members of society just like you.”
The media often inaccurately portrays HIV/AIDS, specifically in the progression of the disease itself. According to AIDS.gov, HIV or human immunodeficiency virus attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the T-cells, which help the immune system fight off infections. If left untreated, HIV reduces the number of T-cells in the body, making the person more likely to get infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage. Without treatment, people who are diagnosed with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic illness, life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year. People with AIDS need medical treatment to prevent death.
Reed is 35 years old and was diagnosed with HIV when she was 27. She, ironically, however considers herself lucky.
“I am very lucky to not have gotten HIV when I was younger, I think. In my early 20s, I was young and reckless, and frankly I don’t think I would have know how to get treatment, let alone wanted to. It’s a bit embarrassing and terrifying to go to a doctor and have them tell you that you have this crazy disease that’s constantly being portrayed as the end of all things.”
Reed has a steady treatment plan and is able to live a long life, unlike many other people who have HIV/AIDS. Many are completely unaware they even have the virus. Apple’s iPhone (RED) will help increase awareness of signs and symptoms as well as get treatment to those who would otherwise have trouble accessing it. While it is a pricey purchase, it truly is well worth the cause.
*Name has been changed due to request
Written by Clara Comparan, Staff Writer