National HIV Testing Day: June 27th
What is HIV?
Did you know the CDC recommends every person get tested for HIV at least once in their lives? More than 36.7 million people live with HIV and 1 in 7 do not know they have it! 1.1 million of those people live in the U.S. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and can infect anyone and everyone who comes in contact with the virus. HIV is spread through bodily fluids, mainly during sexual contact but also by exposure to infected blood, which can occur in both needle users and mothers giving birth. The HIV virus works by attacking the body’s immune system and weakening it so much that the illness eventually transforms and becomes AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Once a person has AIDS they are constantly at risk for opportunistic illnesses, like pneumonia and meningitis, and can contract these illnesses very easily. Even the cold or flu can be extremely dangerous for people living with AIDS. Although HIV is lifelong, it is treatable, and many people live healthy lives with HIV that never transforms into AIDS.
How do I prevent it?
HIV is completely preventable! HIV is transmitted via blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV is not transmitted by saliva, sweat, tears, insects, pets, toilets, or by sharing food or drinks. The best way to prevent HIV is to be safe when it comes to sexual encounters. Always wear condoms or use dental dams when performing sexual acts, and, most importantly, ask your partner to get tested so your risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is lower! There are clinics across Nevada that offer free testing for sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and we have shared a list for the Reno/Las Vegas areas at the bottom of this entry, as well as a testing location locator. Another way to prevent HIV is by using clean needles if you are an injection drug user, and never sharing needles. Many cities offer needle exchange programs, including HOPES Nevada in Reno, and the Harm Reduction Center in Las Vegas.
HIV and the LGBTQ+ community
June is also PRIDE month! It is especially important for the LGBTQ+ community to be tested for HIV this month! Gay and bisexual men are the most at-risk community for new HIV infections each year, totaling 70% of the new infections in the U.S. in 2014. Although statistics show that those numbers are falling each year, it is especially important for men who have sex with men to wear condoms and be tested yearly for HIV. There are also preventative medications that could help deter the spread of HIV if you are at a higher risk, like the drug Truvada, ask your general practitioner about these options. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested, so ask your partner to get tested today! It is important to know that HIV is a disease that is lifelong once contracted, but a diagnosis does not mean you cannot continue living a healthy, long life. Over 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS, and the scientific community is constantly working to better the lives of those with HIV, and are actively looking for a cure as well as a vaccine!
Tips to help prevent the spread of HIV:
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
Use a new condom every time you have anal, oral, and vaginal sex. Male and female condoms are effective when used correctly, so use whatever works best for you and your partner. Be careful when using lubricant, making sure it is water based so it does not weaken the integrity of the condom and causes them to break.
- Consider the drug Truvada.
The drug Truvada can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection in high risk people. It does not prevent other STIs, so you will still need to practice safe sex. If you have hepatitis B you should be evaluated by an infectious disease or liver specialist before beginning therapy.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have HIV and ask them to be tested.
It’s important to tell all your current and past sexual partners that you’re HIV-positive. They will need to be tested. For your own safety it is important to ask your partner to be tested for HIV as well as other STI’s.
- Use a clean needle.
If you use a needle to inject drugs, medicine, or for tattooing purposes, make sure it is sterile and do not share it. Take advantage of needle-exchange programs in your community and consider seeking help for your drug use.
- If you’re pregnant, get tested for HIV right away.
If you’re HIV-positive, you may pass the infection to your baby. But if you receive treatment during pregnancy, you can cut your baby’s risk significantly.
Where can I get tested?
Walgreens is providing FREE HIV testing on 6/27!
The site above contains a locator for free HIV testing near you!
If you are not in the Reno/Las Vegas area, go online and search “free HIV testing” or ask a medical professional!
Northern NV Hopes
Washoe County Health District-Clinic
Las Vegas locations:
Huntridge Teen/Family Clinic
AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Southern Nevada Health District
This blog post was written for Healthy Young NV by Courtney, an Immunize Nevada intern.