Aids World Day

Stopping the Spread of HIV Is Key to Ending the Disease

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.

Scientific Looking Each Other

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.

Couple Walking Holding Their Hands

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.

AIDS HIV Announcement

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 couple

PrEP Means One Less Thing to Worry About

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
HIV PrEP Woman Graphic

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.

PrEP Medicine

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.

Ask Your Doctor About PrEP

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.

Hands LGBTQ+

Addressing Mental Health Issues in the LGBTQ+ Community

According to a 2022 survey by Gallup, 7.2% of adults in the U.S. identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (those whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth). This percentage has doubled since 2012, to more than 23 million Americans.

Despite an increase in visibility, deeply rooted prejudices and oppressive laws still work to harm LGBTQ+ communities. In Florida, for example, Republicans are attacking gay and trans rights by banning gender-affirming care. They’ve also removed references to different sexual orientations from school curriculums in an attempt to slow education and acceptance. On a personal level, LGBTQ+ people may contend with:

  • Rejection — Family, close friends, colleagues, and faith-based communities may turn their backs on those who come out.
  • Trauma — It can include bullying based on homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, which is rooted in the fear of gay, bi, or trans people. LGBTQ+ members are sometimes victims of hate crimes simply because of their identity.
  • Substance abuse — Rejection and trauma can sometimes lead to substance abuse which occurs twice as often among LGB adults versus heterosexual adults. Transgender adults are four times more likely than cisgender adults (those whose gender identity match sex assigned at birth) to have substance abuse problems.

Aside from experiencing a higher rate of discrimination, LGBTQ+ people may have a harder time finding help for the emotional suffering brought on by discrimination. 82% of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed reported a desire to engage in mental health care services. Of those surveyed, however, 60%   were unable to access care. Common obstacles included concerns with parental permission, health care costs, and the fear of having their sexual orientation discovered by others who may not support them.

Couple Hugging In The Kitchen

By the numbers

LGBTQ+ youth often struggle to maintain hope and cope with discrimination, according to the results of the 2022 national survey by The Trevor Project. The organization, which is focused on suicide prevention among gay and trans young people, surveyed nearly 34,000 people ages 13-24 across the U.S. Key findings include:

  • 45% of LGB youth have seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months. 14% did attempt suicide.
  • 20% of transgender and nonbinary youth have attempted suicide.
  • LGBTQ+ youth of color experienced higher rates of attempted suicide than their white peers – 16% of Latino youth, 19% of Black youth, and 21% of Native youth compared to 12% of white youth. 
  • Less than one third of transgender and nonbinary youth lived in homes they felt were gender-affirming.
  • 93% of transgender and nonbinary youth worry that gender-affirming care will be denied through local or state laws, while 83% fear losing the right to play sports with their peers.
  • 36% of LGBTQ+ youth report being physically threatened or harmed because of their identity.
  • Love and acceptance make a massive difference: LGBTQ+ youth who experienced acceptance and emotional support from their families, schools, or communities had lower rates of attempted suicide.
Couple lgbtq mental

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 basic 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

You are not alone. AltaMed is here to help you grow proud. Our Behavioral Health team is available to provide short-term therapy to help you overcome many immediate challenges. We can also connect 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.

Stopping the Spread of HIV Is Key to Ending the Disease