In July, a government study found that HIV diagnoses in the United States are down by 30% across all age groups and demographics. The only group that saw an increase was men who have sex with men.
Does this drop in HIV diagnoses mean that prevention measures are working? Perhaps. There are many reasons why HIV diagnoses are down, but before understanding those, we need to understand what it means to be diagnosed with HIV.
Diagnoses vs. Infection
HIV infection is not the same as HIV diagnosis. HIV can present no symptoms and unless the person who has it gets tested, there is no way to know you are infected. So, while HIV diagnoses are down by 30%, this does not necessarily mean less people are infected with HIV.
Reasons Why HIV Diagnoses Are Going Down
As a whole, we can count any drop in HIV diagnoses as a victory. And there are many potential reasons for the drop, including:
- Better knowledge of sexual protection, including condoms
- Successful sex education in public school curriculum
- Successfully advocacy work of HIV activists
- Easier access to sexual protection
- Anti-HIV medications, like Truvada
But, because the study is broad and includes all demographics and age groups, it does not reflect the HIV crisis in minority communities. Men who have sex with men, youths age 20-24, and African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV. The HIV diagnoses rate of men who have sex with men actually increased, even though there was an overall decrease. Black Americans are eight times more likely than white Americans to be diagnosed with HIV.
Where We Go From Here
At UNM Truman Health Services, our goal is to help our community prevent HIV infection through education and testing. In New Mexico, men who have sex with men and the Latino community are at a higher risk for HIV infection.
To prevent HIV, it is important to know how it is spread. You can get HIV by:
- Having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive
- Sharing needles
- Breast milk (mother to infant)
HIV is 100% preventable. Condoms can be used to lower the risk of transmitting HIV. Intravenous drug users should try to use clean needles to avoid infection.
But, the best way to prevent HIV infection in your community is to get tested and know your status. Knowing your status empowers you to take care of yourself and the people you care about.
At UNM Truman Health Services, HIV testing is free, fast, and confidential. Contact us today to learn where you can get tested right now.