Stopping the Spread of HIV Is Key to Ending the Disease

November 24, 2021

Living nearly two years in the age of COVID-19, it can be easy to forget the millions of people in the U.S. and globally who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. That’s why it’s so important on December 1, World AIDS Day, to remember and honor the lives we have lost due to AIDS-related complications while also continuing to create awareness among the communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.

There are nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S. with HIV and more than 150,000 of those — or 13% — don’t know it and need to be tested. AIDS is one of the leading causes of death in low-income nations, with more than 161,000 people dying in 2019.

The rate of HIV infections and number of AIDS-related deaths have dropped dramatically since the overwhelming and rapid cases started nearly 40 years ago. Still, it’s estimated that nearly 35,000 people were infected in 2019, the most recent year data is available. It’s only an estimate because a significant number of people become HIV-positive, but never get tested.

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Ending AIDS

World AIDS Day is the first global health day created to boost awareness and push for change.

It’s estimated that 38 million people have the virus. Since it was identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

However, it is no longer a death sentence as proven by NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who announced he was infected 30 years ago in November. Advancements in treatment are allowing people to live symptom-free, and when taking it daily as prescribed, the virus can become undetectable and untransmittable.

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What communities are affected?

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are most affected by HIV in the U.S. They accounted for 69% of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. in 2019. Among the MSM population, Black men accounted for 36% of the diagnoses while white men were 30%.

Among all genders, Black people have the highest rate of infection at 42.1%, followed by Latinos at 21.7%. Those of multiple races represent 18.4% of new infections. People aged 25-34 had the highest infection rates at 30.1% followed by those aged 35-44 at 16.5%. HIV prevalence was 9.2% for Transgender people in 2019, compared to less than 0.5% for U.S. adults overall. Even though different communities experience varying rates of infection, HIV can and does impact people from all walks of life.

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Stopping the Spread

Getting tested is the first step people can take to know their status, choose their preferred options to protect their sexual health, and create awareness in the community. AltaMed offers free and confidential HIV testing in person or we can provide you an at-home HIV test that is easy to take.

There are also multiple ways to lower the risk of contracting HIV.

  • Less risky sexual behavior — Anal and vaginal sex have the highest chance of transmitting HIV, while there is little to no risk of getting HIV through oral sex.
  • Properly use condoms — They are highly effective in stopping the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using water-based or silicone-based lubricants will also help prevent condoms from breaking or slipping during sex.
  • Take PrEP — It stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is prescribed to people who are HIV-negative and would like an extra layer of protection. It is highly effective at preventing sexually-transmitted HIV when taken exactly as prescribed.
  • Don’t share needles — Always use new, clean syringes, and never share injection equipment.
  • Use bleach — New syringes are always better than disinfected syringes. Using bleach, however, can greatly reduce the risk.
  • Get tested — Diagnosis can lead to treatment. The earlier treatment starts, the more effective it will be in preventing transmission to your baby.
  • Get treated — Taking HIV mediation as prescribed throughout pregnancy and childbirth, along with giving HIV medicine to your baby for four to six weeks after giving birth, drops the chances of transmission to 1% or less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Knowledge Is Power

AltaMed provides a full range of services related to HIV and STI testing and prevention as well as treatment. If you are seeking services call the Patient Service Center at (323) 869-5448 in Los Angeles County or (714) 500-0491 in Orange County.

If you have been diagnosed recently with HIV, we want to assure you that we are here to help with your medical care, connecting you to the best doctors, and providing resources like one-on-one counseling. Click here to learn more about the HIV care services available to you.

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PrEP Means One Less Thing to Worry About

July 20, 2021

Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with HIV each year. That includes about 28,000 Black and Latino/a people. That number can be close to zero with PrEP.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP is medication designed to prevent HIV. It is recommended especially for people who practice unprotected sex, men who have sex with other men, or people who share needles.

There are more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. who could benefit from taking PrEP. AltaMed is here to answer any questions, and help you determine if PrEP could be right for you.

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HIV transmission basics

HIV exploded into our consciousness in the early 1980s and was seen as a “gay” disease because the first patients were gay men. But it spread quickly beyond gay men. Male-to-male sexual contact remains the highest transmission category at 66%. However, men are not the only population impacted. Women account for 1 in 5 HIV infections. What’s more, a 2020 CDC report surveying seven major U.S. cities found that 42% of transwomen were HIV positive.

As a woman, you still need to think about HIV. PrEP is a daily pill that prevents HIV.

HIV can only be transmitted through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.


The best ways to protect against HIV include:

  • Engage in safer-sex practices
  • Limiting your number of sexual partners
  • Talking to partners about their HIV/STI status
  • Using a condom when you have sex
  • Getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections
  • Only using sterile injection equipment if you inject drugs
  • Talking to your doctor about PrEP

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Who should consider PrEP?

It’s best to talk to your doctor before starting any new medication. However, according to the CDC, PrEP is recommended for people who are HIV negative who have had anal or vaginal sex in the last six months and:

  • Have a partner with HIV
  • Have not consistently used a condom
  • Have been diagnosed with an STI in the last six months

PrEP is also recommended for people without HIV who inject drugs and:

  • Have an injection partner with HIV
  • Share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs

Doctors will also recommend PrEP to people without HIV who have been prescribed treatment after potential exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C — also known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). They will especially recommend it if the person has used multiple courses of PEP, or engage in activities that put them at risk.

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What to take and how to take it

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs — Truvada and Descovy — for PrEP. Studies have shown when taken as prescribed and used consistently, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV from sex by up to 99% and more than 70% for people who inject drugs.

You can still afford PrEP without insurance. There are low-and no-cost options available.

PrEP needs to be taken daily for it to be its most effective. While it is up to 99% effective in preventing HIV from sex, using a condom adds an extra measure of protection and also prevents the transmission of other STIs. PrEP can be taken safely along with birth control and hormone therapy.

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HIV prevention and support

AltaMed is one of the largest HIV service providers in Los Angeles and Orange counties serving more than 2,000 patients. Our multicultural and bilingual physicians and staff can help you explore your care and prevention options so you can make the best decisions that support your sexual health and overall well-being. AltaMed provides eligible patients with medical services, medications, and other important health and community resources at low or no cost.

You can also find real, relatable, and entertaining stories that put a twist on HIV awareness and prevention, including information on PrEP.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your risk for HIV, call our patient service center in Los Angeles County at (323) 869-5448 or Orange County at (714) 500-0491.

You can also follow this link to get started with AltaMed today.

Addressing Mental Health Issues in the LGBTQ+ Community

June 29, 2021

According to a 2017 survey — the most recent by Gallup – 4.5% of adults in the U.S. identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. That’s more than 11 million adults. Of those, more than 4.2 million, or about 39%, report having mental health issues compared with 18% of total adults. 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. This includes more than half of the transgender and nonbinary youth.

Stress from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as new legislation that aims to deny LGBTQ+ people their right to essential medical services in certain states, has only increased the need for health resources. 94% of gay and trans young people, for example, reported that recent politics had a negative impact on their mental health

But even before the added hardships of the last year and a half, the LGBTQ+ community regularly faced psychologically-taxing obstacles that continue today: 

  • Rejection — Family, close friends, colleagues, and faith-based communities will turn their backs on those who come out.
  • Trauma — It can include homophobia, biphobia, transphobia bullying, and identity-based shame. LGBTQ+ members are many times victims of hate crimes.
  • Substance abuse — The rejection and trauma can lead to substance abuse which occurs twice as often among LGB adults versus heterosexual adults. Transgender adults are four times as likely than cisgender adults to have substance abuse problems.

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By the numbers

Times are hardest for LGBTQ+ youth according to the results of the most recent national survey by The Trevor Project. The organization, which is focused on suicide prevention among gay and trans young people, surveyed nearly 35,000 people between 13 and 24 across the U.S. Some of the key findings include

  • More than 80% said COVID-19 made their living situations more stressful
  • 70% said their mental health was “poor” the majority of the time during COVID
  • 48% said they wanted counseling but could not get it
  • 75% said they experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime
  • Half of LGBTQ+ youth of color experienced discrimination in the last 12 months. That includes 67% of Black LGBTQ+ youth and 60% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ youth.

As LGBTQ+ adults grow older, they often end up feeling more isolated and are twice as likely to live alone according to SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders. The loneliness can shorten a life by as much as 15 years while depression and anxiety can increase the likelihood of dementia.

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Getting the right help

There are supportive, compassionate mental health providers serving the LGBTQ+ community. When looking for a mental health professional, it’s important to first consider a few things. You may want someone who shares specific parts of your identity. You may want a provider who is competent in LGBTQ+ issues. Transgender patients may need a mental health professional to write a letter of support for gender-affirming medical care or for changes to legal documents.

You will also want to gather referrals. Find local community centers or health centers, or other supportive and affirming organizations to make recommendations. Then, armed with that information, make the call to get the help you need. 

Supporting you at AltaMed

AlteMed wants you to know that you are not alone, and we are here to help you Grow Proud. Our Behavioral Health team is available to provide short-term therapy to help you overcome any immediate challenges. We can also link you with mental health services if you need long-term therapy. For additional help finding mental health resources, visit CalHOPE.

There are licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish available in our Los Angeles County and Orange County locations. 

To learn more about our services, call us today at (855) 425-1777.