Image courtesy of Men's Health

World AIDS Day is today, December 1. Although some of you may classify HIV an issue of the '80s, consider that more than 50,000 Americans will become infected with the disease within the next year. If that's not enough to catch your attention, here are more reasons why you should still care about America's deadliest STD:

You May Already Have It--And Not Know It. Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. already have HIV--and 20 percent of them don't know it, reports the CDC. "Many people in American have this 'It can't affect me' mentality," says Dr. Marisa Briones, research fellow at the AIDS Research Alliance of California. "But the problem with that outlook is--it can. That's the scariest thing about HIV; you don't know when you're exposed to it." (Always use protection? Make sure you're not making one of these 15 Common Condom Mistakes.)

Condoms Now Have Competition. The CDC states that one of the most common ways that HIV is spread is through unprotected sex. And here's a troubling fact: the majority of Americans don't use condoms when having casual sex (i.e., not within a committed relationship), reports the recent National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. After collecting data from the subjects' past 10 sexual encounters, the survey broke it down by age and found that only 45 percent of men ages 18 to 24 used a condom with their last sexual partner. And as the age groups increased, the stats only got worse: Only 29.3 percent of men ages 25 to 34 used condoms and 21.3 percent of men between ages 35 and 44. Condoms are one of the best ways to protect against getting the virus; yet now that a majority of women are on the pill, condoms are not the number one priority anymore. Those who are sexually active need to realize that getting pregnant isn't the worst-case scenario here--having a life-threatening disease is, explains Dr. Briones.

Let's Say You're Virus-Free--Is She? You may have been checked for STDs and are currently rocking a clean record--but what about your partner? A common assumption in the U.S. is that HIV only affects homosexual men, yet research has shown that it can also be very common in women, explains Dr. Briones. In fact, AIDS is the No. 1 cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide, according to a March 2010 UN AIDS report. The CDC found that, of the 31 percent of newly infected heterosexual HIV cases, more than two-thirds of those infected were women. Feel like permanently wearing a condom yet?

The Treatments Aren't Fool-Proof. According to Dr. Briones, someone in the United States diagnosed with AIDS in the '80s had about 26 weeks to live. Today that figure is closer to 50 years. "But new problems have been surfacing with the treatments," says Dr. Briones. "Just like with any medication, there are side effects. And research has shown that since patients are living longer, it isn't uncommon for them to develop liver disease, heart disease, and other non-AIDS-related cancers."

It's Hitting Epidemic Levels Within Certain Cities. Among residents in Washington, D.C., 3.2 percent have HIV or AIDS, explains Dr. Briones. In America, an outbreak is technically considered an epidemic when more than 1 percent of the population is infected with the virus. "To put that percentage into perspective, that works out to 1 in 30 people within our nation's capital who are infected with the virus," says Dr. Briones.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is easy. If you aren't dead-sure of you or your partner's current STD status, you need to be wearing a condom. Why? Because the CDC reports that 31 percent of new cases of HIV are the result of unprotected heterosexual sex. (Safeguard your manhood against these 9 Reproductive Problems You Can Prevent.)

And as for what type of condom to buy, we've got you covered. Here are the 4 Best-Feeling Condoms.

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