Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: HIV/AIDS Testing and Prevention

    March 17, 2016

    Take Charge of Your Health!

    Did You Know…
    • More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8%) are unaware of their infection.
    • Gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (MSM) are at the greatest risk of getting HIV.
    • By race, blacks/African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV.
      • Young black/African American men who have sex with men (MSM), in particular, are most seriously affected by HIV.
      • Blacks make up 12% of the US population, but account for 44% of new HIV diagnoses, the highest rate of all races/ethnicities.
       
    What is HIV?

    HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the T cells (CD4 Cells). Over time, HIV destroys these cells so that the body cannot fight off infections and disease. That can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

    How is HIV spread?

    Only certain body fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth.

    You cannot get HIV from casual social contact (hugging, shaking hands, using the toilet, drinking from the same glass or eating from the same food), or from mosquitoes.

    How do I know if I have HIV?

    The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. To find places near you that offer free or low-cost confidential HIV testing,

    • Visit gettested.cdc.gov,
    • Text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948), or
    • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or 311.

    You can also use an In-Home Test Kit, available for purchase in most pharmacies and online.

    After you get tested, it’s important to find out the result of your test so you can talk to your doctor about treatment options if you’re HIV-positive, or learn ways to prevent getting HIV if you’re HIV-negative.

    Why should I get tested?

    Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.

    If you are HIV positive, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Before the introduction of antiretroviral therapy (or ART) in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, although scientists have yet to find a cure, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.

    If you are HIV negative, you can learn how to avoid acquiring the virus:

    • Get tested and ask your partner to get tested.
    • Have less risky sex. Anal sex is the most risky type of sex for HIV transmission.
    • Use condoms correctly every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
    • If you are at high risk of contracting HIV (e.g., your partner is HIV+) find out how you can protect yourself with Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
    • Limit your number of sexual partners.
    • Don't inject drugs.
    • Get tested and treated for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:

    The only way to get rid of HIV is if we stop transmitting it. Protect yourself, those you love and your community – get tested for HIV today!

    To learn more:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    National Institutes of Health (NIH) – AIDSinfo

    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - AIDS.gov

    New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

    Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) – AIDSinfo

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