National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day calls for testing, prevention
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Today is National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and Nevada is one of the 10 states with the highest HIV infection rates.
In 2021, more than 11,000 Nevadans were living with HIV. Recent data show nearly 70% of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. are among gay and bisexual men.
Dr. Laura Cheever, associate administrator of the HIV/AIDS Bureau for the Health Resources and Services Administration, said despite progress in care and treatment, there are still many who do not realize they have the disease. HIV today is what she called a "manageable, chronic disease," which can be treated with antiretroviral therapy leading to viral suppression and have no risk of transmitting HIV sexually to someone else.
"In order to live a near normal life span, a person with HIV needs to get on medication and stay on them," Cheever explained. "A lot of people just don't want to deal with the fact that they may have HIV because there is so much stigma still around the HIV diagnosis as well as other issues including homophobia and racism."
Cheever advised getting tested is the first step. For those who test negative, there are ways to prevent future infections. She noted pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as "PrEP," is a great option. According to the Centers for Disease Control, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by 99% when taken as prescribed.
Cheever pointed out like other chronic diseases, HIV disproportionately affects those who are part of minority populations. She added for those looking to receive care or treatment for HIV at low or no cost, you can visit hiv.gov. You can also visit takemehome.org, and enter your ZIP code to see if you are eligible to receive a free, at-home HIV testing kit.
Cheever stressed it is important to realize HIV does not solely affect men who have sex with men.
"It can be transmitted between any two people having sex," Cheever cautioned. "It is disproportionate in the population of gay men in this country which is largely based on sort of historically how it entered this country, but anyone who is sexually active is potentially at risk for HIV."
Cheever added access to health care, education and prevention efforts are all contributing factors in decreasing the rates of HIV.
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