HIV: No longer a death sentence, but still with us

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:38 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Monday is National HIV Testing Day and public health officials are taking the opportunity to remind us that it’s still a significant health concern.

A generation or two ago it was the nightmare that had us all scared. We haven’t given much thought to HIV recently as our attention has been on other threats to our well-being, but the virus itself is still very much with us.

And we may need to hear that news more than most. Nevada ranks fourth in the country for per-population diagnoses.

“We have transiency in our population,” notes Jen Howell, the Washoe County Health District’s Sexual Health Program Coordinator. “We also have a lot of substance abuse. There’s a lot of condom-less sex. So, all of these things kind of come together.”

It’s hard to battle a disease while it remains undetected and there’s little excuse today for letting it remain undiagnosed. A simple blood test produces the answer in a matter of a few minutes and Howell says we should no longer fear the answer.

“Because that’s information for you. If you test positive we get you into care and that’s resources that wrap around and support you.”

There is still no cure, but there are effective treatments. A positive test is no longer a death sentence.

She believes everyone should get this test once in their lifetime, but those with the well-known risk factors, “men having sex with men, using drugs or those who may have been intimate with others who engage in risky behavior. And those who are sexually active that may have open relationships or multiple partners or you’re not sure what your partner is doing, they need to get tested too.”

Thanks to a change in the law during the last legislature, the test is available at all primary care facilities as well as the county health department.

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