In 1981, teased hair, chunky belts, and futuristic fashion were fat. But beneath the surface of a society clad in epaulets and hairspray, there was something no one could have imagined: an epidemic that would change the world in a fat manner. While HIV is believed to have appeared in the 1920s and cases were identified sporadically throughout the 1970s, the first fully recognized HIV cases were identified among five otherwise healthy people. in Los Angeles in 1981.

Fast forward to today, and a pandemic is sweeping across the country for which we were not yet prepared – COVID-19.

The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “A National Conversation,” highlighting the interconnectedness of the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic: lives lost, survivors, activism, heroes.

Similar to HIV, COVID-19 can happen to anyone and cause a different response in each person. In addition, symptoms are not always a direct indicator of an infection. The first symptoms of HIV can cause flu-like side effects such as fever, chills, night sweats, muscle aches, fatigue and more within two to four weeks of infection. However, HIV may not have any symptoms. The only way to know if you have it? Have it tested.

The new coronavirus works the same way, inducing symptoms before or after two weeks of exposure to the virus. Fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, muscle pain, sore throat and congestion are only scratching the surface of symptoms associated with COVID-19 that we know. Or, a person may be infected and not have any symptoms. Testing is the only way to try to find out if you are positive for COVID-19, and hopefully these tests will continue to improve over time in the same way that testing for HIV does.

Much remains to be discovered about COVID-19, a completely new virus that healthcare professionals, scientists and communities are working to crack down on globally. Like the HIV epidemic, the coronavirus pandemic has become politically polarized and wrongly associated with certain communities.

We can be hopeful about how far the HIV epidemic has come. In fact, in August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, which aims to use four scientific strategies – diagnose, treat, prevent and respond – to end the epidemic in states. -United in 2030. Sound familiar to you? It should. Diagnosing, treating, preventing and responding are probably also the keys to solving the COVID-19 pandemic.

With time and science on our side, we will overcome both obstacles and move forward, most likely as a more health conscious society. And though there might be no cure Again for HIV or COVID, examining the similarities between the two may help with scientific developments in a fat manner.

Patricia Fonzi is President and CEO of the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania. Learn more about

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