For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Oxarart
775.328.2414 or 775.276.1021
RENO, NV. - December 1st marks the 29th annual World AIDS Day observance which is an opportunity to bring awareness of the continued impact that HIV has on local, national and global communities. This year’s theme, Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships, promotes partnerships that will accelerate progress toward ending HIV as a public health threat. Though HIV continues to threaten the health and well-being of thousands of Americans, we have more tools than ever to help prevent HIV. Washoe County Health District (WCHD) urges community members between the ages of 13-64 to be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime and at least annually if they engage in unprotected sexual contact or share syringes.
An estimated 1.1 million people are living with HIV, and about 1 in 7 don’t know it. Though HIV continues to threaten the health and well-being of thousands of Americans, we have more tools than ever to help prevent HIV. Washoe County reported 35 cases of HIV infection and 14 AIDS (advanced HIV disease) cases in 2016. Eight of the AIDS cases were in people newly diagnosed with HIV, indicating that they tested late in their infection and were infected for years prior to diagnosis.
Recent trends in HIV diagnoses suggest that prevention efforts are working. From 2011 to 2015, the annual number of HIV diagnoses in the United States declined by 5%, driven by a 15% decline among heterosexuals and a 17% decline among people who inject drugs. However, HIV diagnoses have increased among some groups, such as Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men, and only 49% of people living with HIV in the United States have achieved viral suppression. People who take HIV medicine as prescribed and achieve and maintain viral suppression can live long and healthy lives and have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner.
Prompt diagnosis and linkage to treatment are essential to achieve further declines in HIV infections and better health for those living with HIV. Around 40% of new HIV infections in the United States come from people who do not know they are living with HIV. Half of the people diagnosed with HIV in the United States in 2015 had been living with the virus at least 3 years at the time of diagnosis; a quarter of the people had HIV 7 years or more before diagnosis. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report calls for increased routine and targeted HIV testing to reduce delays between infection and diagnosis.
“Working towards the goal of ending HIV in Washoe County means that we talk about the impacts that HIV has on our community,” said Washoe County District Health Officer, Kevin Dick. “Strengthening partnerships with primary care providers to promote opt-out HIV testing as a standard practice, implementing innovative prevention efforts, and supporting those living with HIV as they are linked and retained in HIV care provides the groundwork to reach the goal of ending HIV, “ Dick added.
WCHD’s Sexual Health Program offers numerous HIV and other sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing opportunities on an ongoing basis, some of which are free to the community. For further information, contact Jennifer Howell, Sexual Health Program Coordinator, at 775-328-6147.
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