Oct. 15 is National LatinX AIDS Awareness Day, one in a series of special awareness days promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to bring targeted information to the Hispanic/Latino community.
Hispanic/Latino communities are disproportionally affected by HIV. According to the CDC, this is due to social and structural issues, including racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty and limited access to healthcare.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the cells that help the body fight off infection. Left untreated, the virus can lead to AIDS (which is short for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV spreads through human contact and bodily fluids, most commonly during sex or injection drug use.
There are about 1.2 million people in the US with HIV, and more than 10 percent of them are not aware they have the virus. HIV can affect anyone, but people of color, especially Black and Hispanic men, continue to be disproportionally affected.
There are tactics to prevent HIV, and with proper care, even if you get HIV it can be controlled. The most important first step is to get tested for HIV.
“Swope Health encourages all people age 15 and older to get tested,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer. Swope Health performs HIV screening during regular physical examinations or by appointment.
“With advances in technology, we are able to offer medication that can prevent HIV,” said Dr. Jamal. Swope Health offers PrEP medication – short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – which can lower your risk of getting infected.
Your screening can also contribute to a national goal to achieve a 90 percent reduction in new HIV infections by 2030 – to effectively end the HIV epidemic in the United States.
“This goal is achievable if we all take steps to get tested for HIV,” said Dr. Jamal.
Who should be tested? All of us.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer group of national experts in preventive medicine, has championed the guideline that all persons from 15 to 65 should be tested for HIV.
The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion also says EVERYONE age 15 to 65 should be tested at least once.
And people with higher risk of infection may need to be tested more often. This is recommended if you:
- Are pregnant
- Have sex with someone who has HIV
- Use drugs with needles (other than prescription medications)
- Have a sexually transmitted disease
- Have sex in exchange for money, drugs or other items
Swope Health can help you take advantage of PrEP medication and other preventive approaches, as well as provide linkages to care if you test positive for HIV or AIDS. There is no cure for HIV, but HIV can be managed with regular care, especially with an early diagnosis. Treatment works best when you commit to a schedule including regular medication and doctor appointments.
HIV treatment involves taking highly effective medicines called antiretroviral therapy or ART that work to control the virus. This is recommended for everyone with HIV, and people with HIV should start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis, even on that same day. Learn more about HIV care.
End stigma of HIV
Stigma, or a negative attitude about people with HIV, is rooted in fear. It is a form of prejudice that can lead to behaviors of discrimination.
Ending stigma involves treating all people – with or without HIV – in the same way.
Since HIV can infect anyone, EVERYONE should be tested for HIV, without stigma. All of us getting tested means we have a better chance of eradicating HIV, and that’s good for all of us.
If you have questions about HIV or AIDS, Swope Health can help. Your health information is always private and confidential, and Swope Health offers PrEP. You can make an appointment to learn more and get answers to questions about HIV testing, prevention, or care – call 816-923-5800.