National HIV Testing Day

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day

June 27th is National HIV Testing day. There are approximately 1 million people in the US living with an HIV infection, it’s important that we are all educated about the virus and how modern medicine and testing can help. One in seven HIV-positive people in the US are unaware of their diagnosis. The time has never been better to advocate for HIV testing. National HIV Testing day exists to raise awareness of HIV, encourage people to get tested, and connect people with care and treatment for HIV.

The CDC recommends HIV testing for every adult at least once in his or her lifetime. If you are a person who is considered at “high-risk” for HIV, the CDC recommends you get tested at least once a year. “High-risk” patients include gay and bisexual men, women who have had intercourse with a bi-sexual man or an HIV-positive partner, anyone who has sought treatment for another STD, anyone who has exchanged sex for money or drugs, or anyone who has shared a needle with others.

This year’s National HIV Testing day theme is “Doing It My Way,” which educates people about the variety of testing methods available today, emphasizing the importance of just getting tested. Testing prevents the further spread of the virus, keeps you healthy, and can prolong the lifespan of those infected when paired with treatment option(s).

The Best Defense is Getting Tested

Detecting HIV early the best defense against the virus. The earlier you detect and start treatment for HIV, the greater your chances are at reducing your viral load, meaning you have less of a chance of contracting opportunistic infections (infections that strike when your immune system has been lowered by HIV) or spreading the virus to a partner. If you do test positive for HIV, the next step is to seek treatment immediately. A recent study showed patients who sought treatment even before they manifested any symptoms had a significantly higher survival rate than those patients who waited.

Getting Treated for HIV

HIV treatment is called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. ART is prescribed by a physician and does require daily maintenance. Missing doses or skipping days of ART may cause HIV to become drug resistant. However, if you take ART regularly as prescribed, it can dramatically lower your viral load. Once your viral load is lowered, you are less likely to become ill with an opportunistic infection. While taking ART, your viral load may become so low that it is undetectable. This means the virus cannot be passed to a partner and is known as “treatment prevention.”

Current research in HIV treatment and prevention focuses on creating versions of ART that can be taken weekly or monthly instead of daily, which would increase its success rates and help more people. Many other advances come in the form of new medications. Some of those medications like maraviroc, are called “entry inhibitors”. Unlike previous HIV medications that keep the virus from dividing after it had entered a white blood cell, entry inhibitors prevent the virus from entering white blood cells. Different strains of HIV react to the drug in different ways, so it is not guaranteed to work with every strain.  However, when it is effective, maraviroc works to slow the virus and prolong lifespan. Similar to maraviroc, raltegravir is used for patients who are not responding to other treatments. Raltegravir stops the HIV virus from inserting genetic material into white blood cells, also known as an integrase inhibitor.

Living with HIV

When many people hear the word “HIV,” they automatically assume the worst. However, in the past 10-15 years, large advances have been made in the prevention, treatment, and attitudes about the virus. If you have been diagnosed with HIV and are receiving treatment, consider these steps in creating a health life:

  • Get Educated: New data consistently emerges regarding HIV research and treatments. Learn about the virus and treatment options, so you can play an active role in shaping your future. Take this knowledge and educate others about HIV and possible treatment options.
  • Practice Safe Habits: Just because you are HIV-positive does not mean you should throw all caution to the wind. With current medications and medical care, many HIV patients go on to live long and productive lives with treatment. You should still practice safe sex with a condom and refrain from sharing needles or other drug equipment. You are still at risk for sharing the virus with others and contracting other strains of HIV.

The Future of HIV Treatment

Looking forward, doctors and researchers hope to develop a successful vaccine for HIV. Thus far,  a vaccine for HIV has remained elusive, because the body does not have many natural defenses against the virus. However, researchers continue to study both preventative vaccines and therapeutic vaccines, which are administered to someone who already has the virus. It may be impossible to completely prevent HIV-transmission with a vaccine, but researchers hope to at least discover a vaccine that will slow the virus’s progression through the body.

Are you ready to get tested? Capital Women’s Care offers STD and HIV testing services as well as various treatment options. Call or email our office to speak with someone on our staff who can help.

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.

 

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