Health Matters

What's your status?
Jun. 15, 2013 @ 05:00 PM

In current times, many may think I’m referring to a Facebook status, but I’m not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all people know their HIV status. Living with HIV infection has changed dramatically since the 1980s when the virus was making headlines. HIV testing should be considered part of an individual's routine blood work during his or her yearly physical.

At the end of 2009, about 1.1 million people were living in the United States with the HIV infection. About 18 percent of those people did not know they were infected with HIV. When considering race and ethnicity, African Americans are most affected by HIV. In 2010, African Americans made up approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections. The Hispanic/Latino population is also strongly affected. In 2010, Hispanic/Latinos made up approximately 17 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 21 percent of all new HIV infections. When we look at HIV by transmission type, men who have sex with men (MSM) are most at risk. MSM accounted for 63 percent of all new HIV infections, even though they made up 2 percent of the population. Heterosexual contact accounted for 25 percent of all new infections, while persons who used IV drugs accounted for 8 percent and MSM and also used IV drugs accounted for 3 percent of new infections.

When a person is aware of their HIV status, some important things can happen. When a person is newly diagnosed, it allows the person the opportunity to seek care. We are fortunate to live in an area with great resources for the treatment of HIV. Individuals who are receiving treatment with HIV medications, often called ART (antiretroviral therapy), live long healthy lives. Advances in HIV treatments from pharmaceutical companies have led to the development of many drugs that do not have the harsh side effects that many HIV medications did in the mid 1990s. Often individuals who are receiving HIV care routinely and are taking their medications as directed will be less likely to transmit the virus to someone else. Another important thing that happens when a person knows their HIV status is they can take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

HIV is not an infection we can count on specific people to treat. It takes all of us. It takes doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, case managers, community programs, the media, every individual and many more.

We encourage all people to talk to their medical care provider about HIV testing and we encourage all people to know their status. Anyone who would like to be tested for HIV can be tested at the Lee County Health Department for free and confidentially. For questions regarding HIV or to make an appointment for testing, individuals can call (919) 718-4640. All statistics were taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.