From what I have read, HIV/AIDS is contracted largely through unprotected sex and sharing needles. Are there any other avenues through which HIV/AIDS is contracted in significant numbers? Could new cases drop to near zero (at least in first world countries) if people understood the risks and modified behavior accordingly?
There have been other transmissions through blood transfusions. The public health system has taken steps to protect the blood supply and I don’t know how much of a problem this is anymore.
Oh, and I forgot – pregnancy and childbirth – from mother to infant. I believe there are now treatment regimens which significantly lower this risk.
One major difficulty is that people, by and large, want to have children, and the same measures that prevent transmission of the disease also prevent pregnancy. Someone who doesn’t already have the disease can still safely have kids by carefully selecting partners who are also clean, but HIV+ people still want to have kids, too.
HIV positive women are definitely advised not to breast-feed, because the virus has been found in and transmitted by breast milk. The one woman I have known personally who has dealt with this also had cesarean deliveries scheduled 2 weeks before the due date, which is usually not recommended but in this case, the risk of having a slightly premature baby was less than that of the baby possibly contracting it because of blood contact during labor.
AZT, among other drugs, have been used for years to reduce the transmission from pregnant mother to child. They aren’t a 100% guarantee but have prevented many infections.
Back when I worked at a clinic we had a number of HIV+ mothers - that was back in the days when there were far fewer treatments. We did have some struggles with well-meaning people who’d urge the women not to take medications during pregnancy (because all drugs are always horrible bad during pregnancy, right?) and pushing them to breastfeed (because breast is always best, right?) when actually for optimum results they needed to take the drugs and NOT breastfeed. And that included any johns with a fetish who wanted to taste momma’s milk, no matter how much or what they offered. (Yeah, some of the women were prostitutes, some of which are quite mercentary and capitalistic.)
HIV transmission is almost 100% preventable. There have been cases of transmission due to hospital blood transfusions, but that is exceedingly rare. If people quit using needles and quit having sex with infected persons, the transmission rate would drop to almost zero.
As others have pointed out, this appears to be easier said than done.
This is also true of syphilis or herpes, which have been around for thousands of years. And even the common (rhino) cold. But it hasn’t happened.
Seems like a few thousand years of evolution have instilled this primary drive towards species reproduction that is really, really hard to work against.
Seems like successes happen when you work with it; via things like vaccines that work against the disease, without having to fight the innate reproductive drive. With HIV, the most effective measures seem to be similar, involving PreP drugs to enable an Hiv-exposed body to fight it off before the infection gets started.