Dr. Woodrow Myers was the guest medical expert during The Oprah Show's first visit to Williamson, West Virginia, in 1987. Dr. Myers returns to the show to explain what HIV/AIDS looks like today compared to 1987.
In 1987, an estimated 945,000 to 1.4 million people in America were infected with HIV/AIDS. At the end of 2006, 1.1 million Americans were estimated to be living with HIV. Dr. Myers estimates about 1.25 million are living with it today. In addition, he approximates that about 60,000 people are infected with the virus each year, based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The life expectancy of someone diagnosed with HIV in 1987 was 18 months. Today, it is 22 years, Dr. Myers says.
In America, more than 18,000 people with AIDS die each year, Dr. Myers says. Lifetime medical care for those infected with HIV is estimated at more than $20 billion.
Dr. Myers shares the truth about some common myths and misconceptions of HIV/AIDS.
Myth 1: HIV is not the cause of AIDS.
It has been proven beyond any doubt that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Myth 2: AIDS can be spread through casual contact with an HIV-infected individual.
If this was true, there would be many millions more cases. Myth 3: When using needle drugs, not sharing hypodermic needles is an adequate way to prevent HIV.
There's still risks involved. The cotton used to filter the drugs, the water used to rinse the equipment and the "cooking" devices could also be full of the virus. Myth 4: Sexual intercourse with a virgin will cure AIDS.
This is an especially prominent myth overseas that is absolutely false and puts a lot of young girls at high risk when older men with the virus seek them out.
In a 2009 Kaiser Poll, 27 percent of Americans believed they could contract HIV by sharing a glass and 14 percent believed they could contract HIV by swimming in a pool with someone with HIV. Dr. Myers says you cannot contract HIV from drinking out of the same glass or swimming in a pool. HIV is contracted when infected blood and other body fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluids, enter the body through the bloodstream, by breastfeeding or by passing through mucous membranes inside the vagina, rectum or urethra.
Globally, Dr. Myers says there are 35 million people living with HIV, and 3 million people are newly infected each year. HIV is the most serious infectious disease that's challenging global public health.
On the plus side, treatment is now more available and more effective than ever, Dr. Myers says.
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, December 13, 2013