National HIV Testing Day: today you can know your status

Every June 27, the National HIV Testing Day is held in the States and in some countries of the region. A moment that can encourage you to take the test and know your own status.

If a person is HIV positive, finding out early can make a huge difference in life expectancy and quality of life. and andThis is important because HIV is a virus that continues to circulate and can be silent, a person can carry it for decades without showing symptoms.

In 2019, more than 10,000 Hispanics received an HIV diagnosis, which represented 29% of all new cases in the country and its territories. Many of these cases reach the medical consultation when they have already advanced to the AIDS stage, having lost an invaluable window of opportunity to start treatments that add years and quality of life.

The numbers don’t just reflect outstanding debts in the United States. In Latin America, also in 2019, 2.1 million people were living with HIV, with 120,000 new infections and 37,000 deaths this year. Access to treatments and PrEP, preventive medicine, remain elusive.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, complicated the health landscape for people living with HIV as well.

By 2005, the region had reached a treatment access rate of 20%, high compared to 3% in sub-Saharan Africa. But in the last decade, progress has slowed, and between 2010 and 2020, the number of cases in Latin America has increased by 21%, compared to a drop of 23% globally.

Both in the United States and in Latin America, the challenges are similar: to continue educating about the possibilities of prevention, and to ensure that all people have access to information and care for HIV.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2015 to 2019, new HIV diagnoses decreased by 7% among Hispanic women and 11% among young Hispanic and bisexual men. While this drop shows the success of focused efforts, there is still a lot more work to be done because the stat numbers are not going down as they should.

Of the 29% of new HIV cases in the United States, 38% were in Hispanic youth ages 25-34. According to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, “many social and structural factors, such as limited income and access to health care, housing instability, discrimination, homophobia, Transphobia and systemic racism have a significant influence on the overall health of some Latinos and can be barriers to accessing HIV testing, prevention of infection, and eventually treatment.”

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These barriers can limit the uptake of HIV services in a number of ways, including prevention: Very few Hispanics are aware of the benefits of, and use, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Findings in the Oct. 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC’s weekly report) indicate that in 2019, only 1 in 4 Latinos who received a CDC-funded HIV test knew the PrEP, and only 1 in 5 who were eligible for this preventive option were referred to specific providers of these treatments by their doctors.

CDC’s Stop HIV Together campaign addresses these health disparities and inequities. Some of its core strategies include:

  • Implement HIV self-testing programs to make testing more accessible,
  • Increase the availability of HIV prevention tools, such as PrEP, and
  • Help people living with HIV stay healthy by quickly linking them to HIV treatment and care.
  • Increase education and use of PrEP, to achieve over 50% acceptance among people eligible to use this therapeutic resource

Where to get tested

In the United States, during Monday the 27th, free HIV tests can be carried out at community health centers. The site has a search engine to locate a free testing site.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a resource page, with a search engine for home HIV self-tests. It also has a free HIV test locator.

Greater Than Aids, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s HIV/AIDS program, has a partnership with Walgreens, and hundreds of participating locations will also be tested. In this link you can find a Walgreens that tests for HIV.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurers must cover the full cost of an HIV test.

can be prevented

In the world, 38 million people live with HIV.

In 2019, 1.7 million people contracted the virus, and 690,000 died from AIDS-related causes.

In the United States, an estimated 1.2 million people had HIV at the end of 2018. But the number is thought to be much higher, because many don’t know they carry the virus because they’ve never been tested.

while waiting for a vaccine that finally manages to prevent the infection caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a pill taken once a day can change the destiny of thousands of people.

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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a once-daily pill that people who do not have HIV can take for additional protection. It was launched on the market in 2012 in the United States, under the trade name of Truvada.

In Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Brazil have approved the use of PrEP and have government programs that finance it.

PrEP has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of sexually contracting HIV by up to 90% when taken as prescribed.

To find out if PrEP is a good option, it is essential to talk with your health provider about your sexual life—how many people you have sex with, whether or not you use a condom, or if you have recently had a sexually transmitted disease—to The doctor decides whether or not to recommend it.

HIV Answers

(Extracted from MedlinePlus, the US National Library of Medicine)

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a virus that damages the immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain types of cancer.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of HIV infection. It occurs when the body’s immune system is severely damaged by the virus. Not all people with HIV develop AIDS.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV can be spread in different ways:

  • Through unprotected sex with a person with HIV. This is the most common form of transmission
  • Sharing needles for drug use
  • Through contact with the blood of a person with HIV
  • From mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding

Who is at risk of contracting HIV infection?

Anyone can get HIV, but certain groups are at higher risk:

  • People who have another sexually transmitted disease (STD). Having an STD can increase the risk of getting or transmitting HIV
  • People who inject drugs with shared needles
  • Gay and bisexual men, especially those who are African American or Latino
  • People who engage in risky sexual behavior, such as not using condoms

What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS?

The first signs of HIV infection can be flu-like symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Shaking chills
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle pains
  • Throat pain
  • Fatigue
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • mouth ulcers
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These symptoms may come and go within two to four weeks. This stage is called acute HIV infection.

If the infection is not treated, it develops into a chronic HIV infection. Often there are no symptoms during this stage. If left untreated, the virus will eventually weaken the immune system. Then the infection will progress to AIDS. This is the last stage of HIV infection. With AIDS, the immune system is severely damaged. You can get more and more serious infections, known as opportunistic infections.

Some people may not feel sick during the early stages of HIV infection. So the only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.

How do I know if I have HIV?

A blood test can tell if you have an HIV infection. A health professional can perform the test or you can use a home test kit. You can also use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Testing Locator to find free testing sites.

What are the treatments for HIV and AIDS?

Although there is no cure for HIV infection, it can be treated with medication, known as antiretroviral therapy. This can turn HIV infection into a manageable chronic disease. It also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to other people.

Most people with HIV live long and healthy lives if they receive and continue antiretroviral therapy. It is also important that they take care of themselves. Having the support they need, leading a healthy lifestyle, and receiving regular medical care can help them enjoy a better quality of life.

Condoms, then, now and always

Correct and consistent use of male latex condoms reduces the risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Unless the person abstains from sex, or is in a mutual monogamous relationship, protection must be constant, many STDs have no symptoms, so the person may not even know they carry an infection.

The efficacy of condoms in the prevention of STDs and HIV has been demonstrated by both epidemiological and laboratory studies. The effectiveness of condoms is tested on the basis of theoretical and empirical data on the transmission of different STDs, the physical properties of condoms, and the protection or anatomical coverage they provide.

Laboratory studies have shown that latex condoms act as an effective barrier against even the smallest STD organisms.

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