By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
The only way to know for sure if you have the human immunodeficiency virus is to get tested, and here’s a reminder to do so: National HIV Testing Day, which is Wednesday, June 27.
This year’s theme is #DoingItMyWay, which delivers the message that HIV testing should be part of everyone’s regular health routine and encourages people to share on social media what motivated them to get tested.
Every county health department in Kentucky and many community-based organizations offer free anonymous or confidential HIV testing, according to the stae Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Click here to find a test site near you. The state also offers a new HIV confidential hotline that is open 24 hours a day: 1-844-294-2448.
In 2015, 339 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Kentucky, according to the the state’s 2017 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report. More than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, and one in seven don’t know it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once, and that people who are in high-risk groups should get tested at least once a year.
A person is considered to be in a high risk if he or she answers yes to any of these questions:
- Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
- Have you had sex—vaginal or anal—with an HIV-positive partner?
- Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
- Have you injected drugs and shared needles or other works (for example, water or cotton) with others?
- Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
- Have you been diagnosed with, or sought treatment for, any sexually transmitted disease?
- Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis?
- Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don’t know?
HIV is spread only through direct contact with another person’s body fluids and is most commonly transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without a condom, or by sharing needles or syringes with a person who is infected with the virus.
HIV attacks and destroys a certain kind of infection-fighting cells in the body, which then makes it difficult for the body to fight infections and certain cancers. Without treatment, HIV can eventually destroy the immune system and advance to AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
The best ways to reduce your risk of getting HIV is to use condoms correctly every time you have sex, limit your number of sexual partners, and never share drug injection equipment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Kentucky has about 40 syringe exchanges that allow intravenous drug users to trade dirty needles for clean ones as a way to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
There is also medication available called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, for those who are HIV-negative but at high risk for HIV.