National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is an annual observance encouraging people of all ages to get tested for HIV and to know their status. Too many people are unaware they have HIV. At the end of 2014, an estimated 1.1 million persons aged 13 and older were living with HIV infection in the United States, including an estimated 166,000 (15%, or 1 in 7) persons whose infections had not been diagnosed.
Getting tested is the first step to finding out if you have HIV. If you have HIV, getting medical care, taking medicines regularly and changes in behavior help you live a longer, healthier life and will lower the chances of passing HIV on to others.
Testing is the only way for the Americans living with undiagnosed HIV to know their HIV status and get into care. CDC estimates that more than 90% of all new infections could be prevented by proper testing and linking HIV positive persons to care. HIV testing saves lives! It is one of the most powerful tools in the fight against HIV
Knowing your risk can help you make important decisions to prevent exposure to HIV. Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her lifetime. However, the lifetime risk is much greater among some populations. If current diagnosis rates continue the lifetime risk of getting HIV is:
Your health behaviors also affect your risk. You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. HIV is commonly transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without a condom or sharing injection and other drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Substance use can increase the risk of exposure to HIV because alcohol and other drugs can affect your decision to use condoms during sex. To learn more about your HIV risk and ways to reduce these risks, visit: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk/
Persons who have an STD are at least two to five times more likely than uninfected persons to acquire HIV infection if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. In addition, if a person who is HIV positive also has an STD, that person is more likely to transmit HIV through sexual contact than other HIV-infected persons.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV are bloodborne viruses transmitted primarily through sexual contact and injection drug use. Because of these shared modes of transmission, a high proportion of adults at risk for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV infection. HIV-positive persons who become infected with HBV are at increased risk for developing chronic HBV infection and should be tested. In addition, persons who are co-infected with HIV and HBV can have serious medical complications, including an increased risk for liver-related morbidity and mortality.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. For persons who are HIV infected, co-infection with HCV can result in a more rapid occurrence of liver damage and may also impact the course and management of HIV infection.
Your life matters and staying healthy is important. It’s important for you, the people who care about you, and your community that you know your HIV status. Knowing give you powerful information to help take steps to keep you and others healthy. You should get tested for HIV, and encourage others to get tested too.
For people who are sexually active, there are more tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before. The list below provides a number of ways you can lower your chances of getting HIV. The more of these actions you take, the safer you can be.
The best way to prevent both Hepatitis A and B is by getting vaccinated. There is no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, such as sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do several things to lower your chances of getting an STD, including:
Risks for HIV
The most common ways HIV is transmitted in the United States is through anal or vaginal sex or sharing drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Although the risk factors for HIV are the same for everyone, some racial/ethnic, gender, and age groups are far more affected than others.
What puts me at risk for Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person. Due to routine vaccination of children, Hepatitis A has decreased dramatically in the United States. Although anyone can get Hepatitis A, certain groups of people are at higher risk, including men who have sex with men, people who use illegal drugs, people who travel to certain international countries, and people who have sexual contact with someone who has Hepatitis A.
What puts me at risk for Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.
Among adults in the United States, Hepatitis B is most commonly spread through sexual contact and accounts for nearly two-thirds of acute Hepatitis B cases. Hepatitis B is 50–100 times more infectious than HIV.
What puts me at risk for Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants prior to the early 1990’s. At that time, widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, which has helped ensure a safe blood supply.
Risks for Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a common STD, and most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it. You can get genital herpes from an infected partner, even if your partner has no herpes symptoms. There is no cure for herpes, but medication is available to reduce symptoms and make it less likely that you will spread herpes to a sex partner.
Risks for Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is so common that most sexually active people get it at some point in their lives. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. HPV is passed on through genital contact (such as vaginal and anal sex). You can pass HPV to others without knowing it.
Risks for Chlamydia
Most people who have chlamydia don’t know it since the disease often has no symptoms. Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States. Sexually active females 25 years old and younger need testing every year. Although it is easy to cure, chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant if left untreated.
Risks for Gonorrhea
Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea, an STD that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. But it can be easily cured. You can get gonorrhea by having anal, vaginal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.
Risks for Syphilis
Any sexually active person can get syphilis. It is more common among men who have sex with men. Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. A pregnant women with syphilis can give the infection to her unborn baby.
Risks for Bacterial Vaginosis
BV is common among women of childbearing age. Any woman can get BV, but women are at a higher risk for BV if they have a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, use an intrauterine device (IUD), and/or douche.
HIV is a treatable condition. If you are diagnosed early, get on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and adhere to your medication, you can stay healthy, live a normal life span, and reduce the chances of transmitting HIV to others. Part of staying healthy is seeing your HIV care provider regularly so that he or she can track your progress and make sure your HIV treatment is working for you.
Your HIV care provider might be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Some people living with HIV go to an HIV clinic; others see an HIV specialist at a community health center, Veterans Affairs clinic, or other health clinic; and some people see their provider in a private practice. Current guidelines recommend that most people living with HIV see their provider for lab tests every 3 to 4 months. Some people may see their provider more frequently, especially during the first two years of treatment or if their HIV viral load is not suppressed (i.e. very low or undetectable). Current guidelines say that people who take their medication every day and have had a suppressed viral load at every test for more than 2 years only need to have their lab tests done two times a year.
In addition to seeing your HIV care provider, you may need to see other health care practitioners, including dentists, nurses, case managers, social workers, psychiatrists/psychologists, pharmacists and medical specialists. This may mean juggling multiple appointments, but it is all part of staying healthy. You can help make this easier by preparing a plan for yourself.
Before Your Visit
For many people living with HIV, appointments with their HIV care provider become a routine part of their life. These tips may help you better prepare for your visits to your HIV care provider and get more out of them:
During Your Visit
Asking Questions and Solving Problems
It’s important for you to be an active participant in your own health care and it’s your right to ask questions. You may need to direct your questions to different people, depending on what you need/want to know:
HIV care providers (doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) can answer specific questions about a wide range of issues that affect your health. They can also help you find resources and solutions to problems you may have that affect your health, including:
Nurses and case managers often have more time to answer questions about what you discuss with your provider and to help identify solutions to problems that are affecting your health, particularly around:
If you are HIV positive, attending your medical appointments is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your HIV is optimally managed. Make sure you are ready for your appointments with HealthLynked. Using our novel healthcare ecosystem, you can collate your medical information in one place and Connect there with the physicians who care for you.
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