Contracting the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is no longer seen as a death sentence in the United States and other developed countries, which have the medical systems and other resources to treat it.

Still, millions of people around the world contract HIV and die of the last stage of the virus’s infection: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 1.1 million Americans over the age of 13 were living with HIV at the end of 2014.

In South Florida, the rate of infection is much higher. Our area continues to have the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the nation, according to the latest reports. On average, for every hundred thousand Americans, about 15 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2016.

It’s for this reason that BRIDGES is focusing on the spread of HIV this month.

Let’s start with the basics, as explained by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

 

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that can make you sick. There is no cure for HIV, but there is treatment. Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become weak and you can become sick with life-threatening illnesses. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS. Anyone can be infected with HIV, no matter:

  • Your age.
  • Your sex.
  • Your race or ethnicity.
  • Who you have sex with.

HIV Symptoms

You can have HIV and not know it. Some people have flu-like symptoms when they first get infected with HIV. But some people have no symptoms at all. Flu-like symptoms include:

  • Sore throat.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Skin rash.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Night sweats.

If you experience flu-like symptoms, don’t wait. Speak to a healthcare provider about getting tested for HIV.

 

Testing – Who Should Get Tested? Everyone.

Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once.

Just getting tested once may not be enough. National guidelines from the CDC and other groups recommend retesting at least once a year for anyone at higher risk for getting HIV including: 

  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People with more than one sexual partner.
  • Transgender people who have sex with men.
  • People who have recently had an STI.
  • People who use injection drugs.

The CDC also suggests regular retesting for some sexually active gay and bisexual men. That should be every 3 to 6 months.

 

Where to Get Tested?

There’s lots of places locally and across the nation. Many centers offer drop-in and free services.

Click here to find a place near you.