Did you know that an estimated 1,122,900 adults and adolescents were living with HIV in the United States at the end of 2015? Of those, it is estimated that 162,500 (15%) did not know their status before being tested. The younger a person is, the less likely they are to know their status. Among people aged 13-24 with HIV, 51% are estimated to not know their status.
In 2014, among all adults and adolescents with HIV (diagnosed or undiagnosed):
- 62% received some HIV medical care,
- 48% were retained in continuous HIV care, and
- 49% had achieved viral suppression (having a very low level of the virus).
From 1987 (the first year HIV was listed as a cause of death on death certificates) through 2015, 507,351 people have died from HIV disease.
Thanks to better treatments, HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, stigma is still preventing many people from getting tested for HIV; and in some cases, starting treatment if necessary. It is important on this World AIDS Day for us to unite in the fight against HIV and show support for people living with HIV.
HIV can spread when someone with HIV has unprotected sex or shares injection drug equipment with someone who does not have HIV. An infected mother can also spread it to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding. HIV cannot be spread by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth kissing with someone with HIV. Mosquitoes, ticks, or other blood-sucking insects cannot spread HIV.
There are several different methods that have been proven to be effective in reducing HIV transmission. They include:
Viral Suppression –Many people living with HIV who take their HIV medicines daily achieve viral suppression. This means that the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that it cannot be detected by routine labs. If a person has an undetectable viral load as a result of treatment, the chances of spreading the virus through sex is extremely unlikely.
– People who do not have HIV but have an ongoing high risk for HIV infection can take a daily
pill that has been proven to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV. People are considered to have a high risk for HIV infection if:
- they are in a relationship with someone that is living with HIV
- they have multiple sexual partners and do not consistently use condoms
- they have unprotected sex
- they inject drugs and share needles or equipment to inject drugs
- Men who have sex with men who have anal sex without a condom should also consider PrEP. It is important to take the medicine exactly as prescribed to keep the risk of HIV transmission low. PrEP does NOT protect against other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think PrEP is right for you.
– People who may have been exposed to HIV can reduce their chances of getting HIV through PEP (pos
t exposure prophylaxis). PEP
is medication that must be started within 72 hours of HIV exposure to be most effective. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, contact a healthcare provider right away. Like PrEP, PEP does NOT protect against STIs other than HIV.
– Condoms remain one of the most effective methods for sexually active individuals to protect themselves against HIV. They are also the ONLY contraceptive to protect against other STIs. Using condoms in addition with the methods listed above can provide you with the best protection.
Join us in the fight this World AIDS Day to stamp out HIV, learn the facts about HIV and help take a stand against HIV stigma! To learn more about HIV, visit www.bphc.org/HIV or call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050 for information about HIV testing or for help finding a health care provider specializing in HIV prevention and care.