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Testing for HIV is now as easy as seeing if you're pregnant.

One prick and 15 minutes can make all the difference, thanks to a new HIV self-testing kit.

Testing for HIV is now as easy as seeing if you're pregnant.

There are a record-breaking 35 million people in the world today living with HIV.

Despite what the movies might have you believe, HIV/AIDS didn't go the way of Hammer pants and suddenly disappear in the early '90s (can you imagine if they had swapped places though?). In fact, the virus now affects more people than ever.

In the United States alone, there are 1.2 million people living with HIV — and 10% to 20% of them don't even know it.


Because we're talking AIDS here, and we need to keep things somber. Photo by UNAIDS.

HIV itself is not a death sentence (but you should still practice safe sex).

It took a while for the public at large to become aware of HIV and AIDS. And even then, many people are still under the impression that HIV means you are steps away from death.

But thanks to new medical advancements, that's not really true. People with HIV can live happy, healthy lives for 50 years or more with the proper treatment and care.

That said, you should still do what you can to stop the virus before it gets into your system (if possible). Which means wrap it before you tap it, or whatever your sex-respective version of that phrase might be.

It also means you should get tested. But here's some good news: HIV testing just got a whole lot easier.

Now STOP SAYING YOU'RE "TOO BIG" FOR THEM, OK? Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.

Many people are too embarrassed or afraid to get tested for STIs, including HIV.

A show of hands: How many of you have been tested for STIs and/or HIV? It's hard for me to count since I'm communicating with you via words on a screen.

But I bet that less than half of you put your hands up — despite the fact that half of you have or will have contracted an STI at some point in your life.

So why didn't you raise your hand? It turns out, most people don't get tested simply because they're too embarrassed, or because a trip to the doctor is just plain inconvenient.

See? Just a little prick! Ba-dum-tsh! Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Fortunately, a company in the U.K. just created a new HIV test that allows you to test yourself at home.

BioSure's new HIV self-testing kit is shipped directly to your home in a discreet white box and delivers results in just 15 minutes with a 99.7% accuracy rate.

It's the first of its kind to comply with E.U. safety, health, and environmental requirements, and it costs only £29.99, or about $46 (keep in mind that they also regulate haggis over there). Here's how it works:

The test functions much like a pregnancy test: identifying antibodies produced by the virus, rather than looking for the virus itself.

Instead of looking for that sneaky human immunodeficiency virus directly, the kit scans your blood sample for the antibodies produced as a result of the virus' presence.

Prior to this, it was possible to get your hands on a self-sampling kit, but you had to send it to a lab so they could process the results, and the test required you to draw a blood sample that was about 160 times larger than the BioSure (ow).

This looks a lot like the upholstery cleaning kit for my couch. I hope I didn't confuse the two? Image from BioSure.

But remember: You do have to wait three months after possibly contracting the virus for the test to work.

If you use the HIV self-testing kit before three months have passed since (potentially) contracting the virus, your body will not have had the time to produce enough antibodies to yield a positive result.

(If you're concerned about your health and the health of those to whom you could potentially pass the virus, you should probably seek out a medical professional.)

Why is this so awesome? Because an increase in early diagnoses could help prevent the spread of the virus.

The math is simple: When more people know they have a virus, they can all take preventive measures to stop spreading it.

Because it shouldn't be strange to see a happy person here. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images.

That means fewer people will contract HIV. Everybody wins!

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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