April marks STD Awareness Month, an annual observance that raises awareness about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the importance of preventing, testing for, and treating STDs. It also presents an opportunity to highlight the ongoing impact of HIV across America.
While great strides have been made in the treatment of HIV and curbing the number of new HIV infections, there remains significant work yet to be done. With more than 1 million Americans living with HIV, it is critically important to be educated about HIV.
In observance of STD Awareness Month, here are Amida Care’s top five things to know about HIV.
1) HIV isn’t a death sentence
Although there is no cure for HIV yet, receiving a positive diagnosis is not the death sentence it once was. Medical advancements and the development of new drugs have transformed HIV infection into a treatable medical condition. People who are diagnosed early and adhere to their prescribed treatment regimen can now live longer, healthier lives.
2) 1 in 8 people with HIV don’t know they have it
Knowing your HIV status is crucial for both treatment and prevention. Today, getting tested is quick and easy, yet many people still do not know their status. Early detection empowers individuals to take concrete steps towards a healthier life for themselves and others. People who know their HIV status can get started on treatment sooner and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
3) Treatment is prevention
A primary goal of HIV treatment is to achieve viral suppression—or to be undetectable, meaning that the amount of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected. People who become undetectable are more likely to live longer, healthier lives and are much less likely to transmit the HIV virus to others. Consistent adherence to treatment is essential to ensure the best result.
4) PrEP helps protect against HIV infection
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a treatment regimen that helps prevent HIV-negative people from becoming infected. The centerpiece of the treatment is a single pill taken once daily. PrEP is approved by the FDA and has been shown to be safe and effective; it has proven to be over 90 percent effective in preventing HIV when taken as prescribed. It does not protect against other STDs or pregnancy, and it is not meant for people who are already infected with HIV.
5) HIV does not affect everyone equally
Although there have been great strides over the past few decades in reducing HIV infection, the disproportionate rate of HIV among African Americans, Latinos, and the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender women, is a serious, ongoing health issue. Social determinants of health, such as food insecurity, unemployment, inadequate housing, lack of access to transportation, and stigma and discrimination are obstacles to accessing comprehensive care. It is crucial to break down the barriers that are stopping these communities from receiving preventive care and quality treatment.
At Amida Care—New York’s largest Medicaid special needs health plan (SNP) for people living with chronic health conditions including HIV/AIDS—we provide specialized, coordinated care that has helped to achieve a 75 percent viral suppression rate among our members living with HIV. We are committed to supporting the goal to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York State by 2020, reducing the number of new HIV infections from 3,000 per year to under 750, and ultimately to zero.