FORT LEE, Va. - HIV is a chronic viral infection that attacks an individual’s immune system. HIV can be transmitted when certain of one’s bodily fluids (e.g. semen, blood, breast milk) are injected into the blood stream or come into contact with mucus membrane or damaged tissue of another. Untreated HIV infections can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Disease Syndrome (AIDS).
HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live. However, certain groups of people in the United States are more likely to get HIV than others because of particular factors, including the communities in which they live, what subpopulations they belong to, and their risk behaviors.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 34,800 individuals in the U.S. were told they had HIV. Approximately 1.2 million people in the US have HIV, and about 13% of them don’t know it and need testing. Each year, approximately 350 military members learn they are infected, according to military medical command statistics.
HIV weakens a person’s immune system by destroying cells that combat disease and infection, according to the CDC website. There is no effective cure for it, but it can be controlled with proper medical care.
Testing is the only way for the people living with undiagnosed HIV to know their HIV status and get into care. The 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.
CDC recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Military personnel are required to get tested for HIV every two years as part of their physical health assessment. As a general rule, people at high risk for HIV infection should get tested each year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from getting tested more often, such as every 3 to 6 months.
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly through having anal or vaginal sex or sharing needles or syringes with an HIV-positive partner. Anal sex is the highest-risk behavior. Fortunately, there are more HIV prevention tools available today than ever before. These include using condoms correctly, every time you have sex; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a prevention method in which the HIV-negative partner takes daily HIV medicine to prevent HIV; and treatment as prevention, a method in which the HIV-positive partner takes daily HIV medicine to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. If a person with HIV takes HIV treatment every day exactly as prescribed and gets and keeps an undetectable viral load, they have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their partners through sex.
HIV testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis better known as PrEP are available at Kenner Army Health Clinic. All beneficiaries can call and schedule an appointment with the Kenner Army Public Health Clinic at (804)734-9449. Don't let worry over an HIV test stop you from taking one. Whatever the result, it can help you make smart decisions about your body and your health.