While HIV and AIDS aren't grabbing headlines like they did in the late 80s and early 90s, they do remain a significant public health issue.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, "Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today. About 14 percent of them (1 in 7) don’t know it and need testing. HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and gay and bisexual men."
In the years since the first anti-viral drug AZT was introduced, prevention and treatment options have revolutionized what it means to be at risk for or living with HIV. One of the most exciting developments is a medication called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which, when taken regularly as prescribed, reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%. For people who inject drugs, the risk is reduced by about 74%.
For those living with HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) has the capability of lowering a person's viral load to undetectable levels. Not only does this help the person live a healthier life, it also means they are less likely to transmit HIV to a sexual partner, allowing people living with HIV to develop and sustain lasting intimate relationships. At Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, we recognize that HIV awareness and prevention in rural areas is often challenging due to access to appropriate care and persistent stigma around HIV and AIDS. Thanks to our partners at Strength in Peers Harrisonburg, we are able to offer monthly clinics for rapid HIV testing as well as rapid Hepatitis C testing in the comfort and privacy of our Center in downtown Staunton. Within this supportive environment, individuals can also receive information about PrEP, HIV treatments, mental health support, and addiction recovery. We strive to build relationships with each person who walks through our doors and care for them as a whole person. Registration is now open for our February and March clinics on our website at https://www.shenlgbtqcenter.org/get-tested. Please help us spread the word as we work to expand support and testing in our community!