Today is World AIDS Day, a day for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus Syndrome), if not treated, can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). World AIDS Day was held for the first time in 1988.
AIDS: LET'S END IT!
HIV testing is an important part of ending AIDS
A Message from Dr. Evan Adams, FNHA Chief Medical Officer
Have you taken an HIV test lately? On this, World AIDS Day, I'd like to share with you how, by making HIV tests a regular part of our self-care routines and by taking other precautions, we can help end AIDS.
The first thing to know is that ensuring HIV does not lead to AIDS begins with an HIV test, an early diagnosis of HIV infection, and the earliest possible start on anti-viral medication treatment to suppress the virus. There is no cure for HIV, but this medication, which is available at no cost, will greatly improve both your health and your lifespan when taken as prescribed. Just as importantly, it will also prevent the transmission of HIV to others. This is why I urge every adult to get an HIV test as part of their yearly check-up, and, if diagnosed as HIV+, to immediately begin treatment. Research has shown that an early diagnosis, in combination with sustained antiretroviral therapy, can result in HIV-positive people living up to an additional 55 years.
Further, for an HIV+ individual, regular anti-viral treatment can reduce your risk of giving HIV infection to someone else to essentially zero. There are other ways to help prevent HIV transmission: 1) use condoms; 2) talk with new partners about your/their HIV status and HIV prevention; 3) get tested during pregnancy; and 4) if you are using injection drugs, use new equipment every time.
Unfortunately, about 20% of people with HIV in Canada do not yet know they are infected, and 10 to 20% of people with known HIV infection are either not on anti-viral medication or are not taking it consistently enough (as prescribed) to be getting the full health advantage of it. In BC, there were approximately 12,100 persons living with HIV in 2014, with an estimated 3,500 more living with HIV but unaware of their status. Every year, there are about 239 new HIV positive diagnoses in the province, with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) comprising the greatest number (57% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2015).*
If you do test positive for HIV, it is important to engage with care providers who will help you access and benefit from treatment and achieve wellness. Beginning treatment is a decision an individual makes with their doctor. Good nutrition, adequate rest, regular exercise and other healthy stress relievers help build a strong immune system.
HIV is not a pleasant subject, but good health is, so I believe it is important that we keep the conversation about HIV going – especially the part about how HIV is preventable and treatable. It all starts with talking about it, getting a test, and if necessary, accessing treatment. Know that even if you're in an established relationship, a yearly HIV test is a good chance to check in with your mate, your doctor and yourself.
Please do your part to keep yourself, your relationships, and our families and communities healthy! Get tested regularly, and, if HIV+, take anti-viral medication as prescribed for your own long-term health and for stopping the spread of HIV to others. Let's end it!
To find a testing site near you, visit https://smartsexresource.com/get-tested/clinic-finder.
For more information about HIV testing, see http://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/sexy-health-includes-knowing-your-hiv-status.
Yours in Wellness,
Dr. Evan Adams
FNHA Chief Medical Officer
*All figures are from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).