Advocates push the importance of knowing your status, preventative methods this World AIDS Day
DELMARVA – Every December 1st is a call to action, raising awareness and promoting education to end the HIV epidemic as it marks World Aids Day.
Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV. 13% of them don’t even know it.
Aids is a chronic disease caused by the HIV virus, attacking the immune system and preventing one’s ability to fight infection. “Aids started in the 80s. We’re now in 2022, and we want to make sure we still remember those folks that have lost their lives, encourage others to get tested, and to do the prevention to ensure they’re not one of those numbers,” CAMP Rehoboth Health & Wellness Coordinator Amber Lee said.
This year’s theme is Rock The Ribbon.
HIV testing took a big dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Wicomico County Health Department and local community resource CAMP Rehoboth.
Although testing numbers are on the rise, we’re told they aren’t where they should be. “That was a concern basically on a national level that people just aren’t getting tested like they should be,” Lee said.
“The main goal that we have is for people to know their status. Knowing their status, they can get into proper treatment and care,” Wicomico County Health Department’s Director of Nursing Olivia Butler said.
New HIV diagnoses have decreased in Wicomico County since 2019, with only 9 cases found in 2021.
The health department says that can be attributed to getting patients to proper care, leading to an undetectable status. “For one, you don’t not run the risk of transmitting the virus to a partner or anybody else. Two, your body will be healthier, and your immune system will be healthier. You won’t be susceptible to some of those secondary infections that can make people ill,” Butler said.
For those at risk, CAMP Rehoboth staff say it’s important to know the preventative methods at your disposal. “Even before getting tested, let’s think about PrEP. We have medications out there nowadays like PrEP that some can take to help prevent the spread of HIV. There is no vaccine and there’s still no cure,” Lee said.
Amber Lee with Camp Rehoboth says that if you are highly engaged in risky behaviors, which include unprotected sexual activity, that you get tested every 3 months.
She also advises talking to your health care provider on if PrEP is a good option for you.