June 27th is the National HIV Testing Day and more communities in the United States are working hard to continue to raise awareness. For 2018, the theme is "Test Your Way. Do It Today," which reminds people that there are more convenient ways to get tested for HIV.
What Is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and it weakens a person's immune system by destroying the important cells, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells) that fight disease and infection. As of today, there is no known cure for the virus but it can be maintained with the proper medical care.
Once a person contracts HIV, they have the virus for life. If the virus is left untreated, the number of CD4 cells in the body becomes reduced, which can make a person more vulnerable to other infections and cancer-related illnesses.
The medicine that is used to treat HIV is known as ART or antiretroviral therapy, which was created in the mid-1990's. Prior to the creation of ART, HIV would lead to AIDs within a few years. However, today, if a person is diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease has progressed, they could live on for years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 38,000 new HIV infections in 2015, which is less than the 41,800 reported cases in 2010. Groups who are at a greater risk of getting the virus include gay, bisexual, or other men who have engaged in sexual relations with men. Miami, Florida has the highest HIV infection rate in America.
New Ways To Fight HIV
In addition to getting regularly tested, The National Aids Control Council (NACC) has teamed up with Nakuru County Government to create an app that will provide up-to-date and centralized data on HIV/AIDs prevalence.
The deputy director of the NACC, Regina Ombam, stated that the council will be conducting population-based surveys that will help guide the prevention of HIV and provide support and care for those who have been infected by the virus.
Ombam continued that majority of the hospitals in America use a manual method of retrieving data which is not been effective in fighting the disease. She elaborated that with the new app, it will help identify a range of patterns and trends, people who are infected, and patients who are being treated for the virus.
People Still Remain Unaware
DOH-Hillsborough Human Services Program Director, James Roth, stated that people are afraid to get tested for HIV because they fear that they may be HIV-positive.
"What many do not know is that with the right medication, HIV can become undetectable in lab tests. If HIV is undetectable for six months, it becomes untransmittable," Roth continued.
The DOH-Hillsborough states that 1 in 7 people are infected with HIV but are not aware of it, which leads to 50 percent of new HIV infections. The CDC has recommended that people between the ages of 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once during their lifetime.
For people who are at risk of contracting the virus, the CDC urges that they get tested once a year.