World AIDS Day is observed Dec. 1 each year. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness that human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is still among us. It is also a day to unite with others around the world to prevent HIV, to provide support to individuals with HIV, and to remember those who have lost their life to an HIV-related illness.
Myths surrounding the disease include the disease is no longer a threat, and only targeted populations can get it, such as gay males. Since 1981, HIV has taken the lives of 700,000 Americans, including men, women, and children, and 32 million people worldwide. The United States currently has 1.1 million individuals living with HIV, with 59 percent being 45 years or older in 2019. There are many more are at risk of getting the disease. There have been enormous strides made in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, treatment, and care since the epidemic began 40 years ago.
Screening and testing are important prevention and treatment efforts, and the CDC recommends anyone between the ages of 13-64 should be tested at least once, and annual testing for individuals at risk for HIV, including:
• Having sex with someone infected with the virus who is not in medical care
• A man having sex with another man (these individuals could benefit from more frequent testing)
• Having more than one sex partner since the last HIV test
• Engaging in sexual activities without condom use
• If an individual is unaware of the sexual history of a sexual partner
• Sharing syringes/needles with others
• Exchanging sex for drugs or money
Testing should be provided at each medical visit for individuals seeking testing for a sexually transmitted infection. Screening should be provided:
• At a medical exam prior to conception to determine HIV status
• At a medical exam for pregnant women
• Routinely for anyone being treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)
Testing is defined as performing an HIV test for individuals with signs and symptom of HIV or practicing risky behaviors. Screening is defined as performing an HIV test for all individuals within a defined population, such as all pregnant women.
The treatment is constantly evolving, and it took years before medications could make living with HIV/AIDS possible for those that could afford it. The Health Resources and Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Ryan White Program have diligently worked with experts in pharmacies and the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services to fund services to help individuals diagnosed with HIV get the medical treatment they need.
Developments have been made to reduce an individual’s chance of getting HIV with the introduction of PrEP (pre-exposure medication). In addition, anti-viral medications for individuals that already have HIV/AIDS are available. Individuals with HIV/AIDS taking prescribed medication(s) regularly can live a full life and not spread the disease to others.
It needs to be remembered that individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS will always have the disease; however, there are medications to help reduce the risk of spreading or catching the disease and make it possible to live a full life. An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.
Make an appointment for HIV testing with Carson City Health and Human Services throughout the year by calling 775-887-2195 or visiting us at 900 E. Long St., in Carson City. Staff are available to answer your questions and we have condoms available free of charge.
For information about services and programs available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, visit our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, or give us a call at 775-887-2190. You can also find us at 900 E. Long St., in Carson City, or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/cchhs, X @CCHealthEd, or Instagram @GetHealthCarsonCity.