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The Voice of Southwest Louisiana March 2018 Issue

The Voice of Southwest Louisiana News Magazine March 2018

SWLA Health Center HIV &

SWLA Health Center HIV & AIDS in Women and Girls Statistics provided by: Carol T. Giles, D.Min. Director, Client Services Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council Here are some statistics for you about HIV generally in SWLA and about women and youth in particular. In 2016 Louisiana ranked 3rd in the nation in HIV case rates and 2nd in AIDS case rates. As of September 30, 2017 there were 21,784 persons living with HIV in Louisiana; 28.7% were women. 81% of HIV-positive women in Louisiana are Black/ non-Hispanic. Louisiana ranked 1st in the nation in 2016 for case rates of primary/secondary syphilis. In Region V (Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis Parishes) there were 1,069 persons living with HIV as of September 30, 2017. 24.5% were women. 66% of HIV-positive women in Region V are Black/ non-Hispanic. 5 individuals under the age of 19 are living with HIV and 37 are age 20-24. What is HIV? HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is our body’s natural defense against illness. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and makes copies of itself inside these cells. T-helper cells are also referred to as CD4 cells. As HIV destroys more CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself, it gradually breaks down a person’s immune system. This means someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will find it harder and harder to fight off infections and diseases. If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the speed HIV progresses will vary depending on age, health and background. Basic facts about HIV •• HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. •• There is effective antiretroviral treatment available so people with HIV can live a normal, healthy life. •• The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start – leading to better long term health. So regular testing for HIV is important. •• HIV is found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk. •• HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine. •• Using male condoms or female condoms during sex is the best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. •• If you inject drugs, always use a clean needle and syringe, and never share equipment. •• If you are pregnant and living with HIV, the virus in your blood could pass into your baby’s body, or after giving birth through breastfeeding. Taking HIV treatment virtually eliminates this risk. What is AIDS? AIDS is not a virus but a set of symptoms (or syndrome) caused by the HIV virus. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death. Basic facts about AIDS •• AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. •• AIDS is also referred to as advanced HIV infection or latestage HIV. •• AIDS is a set of symptoms and illnesses that develop as a result of advanced HIV infection which has destroyed the immune system. •• Treatment for HIV means that more people are staying well, with fewer people developing AIDS. Although there is currently no cure for HIV with the right treatment and support, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. To do this, it is especially important to take treatment correctly and deal with any possible side-effects. 8 March 2018 WWW.THEVOICEOFSOUTHWESTLA.COM Volume 5 • Number 8

There are four main routes of HIV transmission: •• unprotected vaginal or anal or oral sex (oral sex carries a very small risk) •• sharing unsterilized injecting drug equipment •• from mother-to-baby in pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding •• infected blood transfusions, transplants or medical procedures, although most countries have processes in place to prevent this. Who is at risk? Anybody is at risk of HIV if infected fluids from an HIVpositive person enters their body. HIV does not exclusively affect certain groups of people. If people living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment and have an undetectable viral load, the risk of HIV transmission is greatly reduced. Myths! HIV cannot be transmitted by: •• Surfaces - HIV cannot be transmitted by contact with toilet seats, eating utensils, musical instruments, hugs or handshakes. •• Air – Breathing the same air as someone living with HIV does not transmit HIV. Coughing, sneezing or spitting cannot transmit HIV either. •• Kissing - Saliva contains very small amounts of HIV and so the risk is negligible unless both partners have large open sores in their mouth or bleeding gums. •• Insect bites - Insects such as mosquitoes don’t transmit HIV because they do not inject blood when they bite. •• Sterile needles - Sterilized or new needles and syringes are safe from HIV transmission. Do not share used needles. •• Water - HIV cannot survive in water, so you are free from HIV transmission in swimming pools, baths or shower areas. Why test for HIV? •• Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV •• Knowing your status means you can keep yourself and your sexual partners healthy •• Being diagnosed early gives you a better chance of living a long and healthy life •• It’s quick, easy and almost always free When should I test for HIV? Take a test if you are... •• not always using condoms •• sharing needles or using syringes when injecting drugs •• pregnant •• breastfeeding. Even if you haven’t recently put yourself at risk of infection, getting an HIV test at least once a year is a good habit to get into to check your sexual health if you are sexually active. Where to get an HIV test? HIV testing is available at many healthcare clinics, hospitals, sexual health clinics, and community services. Free HIV testing is widely available in many countries. Otherwise, the cost of an HIV test depends on your clinic and location. You can search online for ‘HIV testing’ plus your location to find the nearest place to get an HIV test in your area. In some places, self-testing kits may also be available so you can test in the privacy of your home if you prefer. It’s still always best to talk to a health worker once you have your result. Know your rights HIV testing should... •• Involve your full consent •• be confidential •• give you an opportunity to speak to a professional about what’s involved •• give you a positive or negative result •• depending on your results, give you information on further treatment or prevention services How does HIV testing work? You can test for HIV at any time, but it can take up to 3 months after exposure for HIV tests to detect an infection (called the window period). Your healthcare worker will be able to suggest the type of HIV test that’s best for you. Your healthcare worker will take either... •• a blood sample •• an oral fluid sample Getting your results The time between testing and getting the results depends on the type of test you have. •• Rapid test and self-testing kit results are ready in 30 minutes or less •• Laboratory test results can take a few days to a few weeks to return results Modern HIV tests are very accurate, but positive results require a second blood sample to confirm an HIV infection. What happens next? Receiving a positive result This means that HIV has been detected in your body - but don’t worry, there is treatment for HIV that will keep you healthy. Your test results are only shared with health workers involved in your care. They should advise you on... •• referral onto a treatment plan •• if pregnant, starting you on treatment to prevent transmission to your baby •• where to get information and support for living with HIV •• taking precautions if living with or travelling in places with a high tuberculosis (TB) prevalence Starting treatment straight away can ensure that you remain healthy and reduces your chances of passing HIV onto others. Receiving a negative result This means that you don’t have HIV, but remember to get the facts on staying negative. •• protect yourself during sex by using condoms •• Find out about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an option to protect against HIV. •• If you inject drugs, do it safely - don’t share needles or syringes. •• Have regular tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). •• If you’ve taken an HIV test within the window period since exposure, test again after 3 months. If you’ve had unprotected sex or shared needles or syringes to inject drugs since your last HIV test - test again! Volume 5 • Number 8 WWW.THEVOICEOFSOUTHWESTLA.COM March 2018 9

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