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.
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.
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.
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.