In the Know: Top 5 HIV/AIDS Facts
by Laura Rusie, Director of Epidemiology
1. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a once-daily medication to significantly reduce a person’s risk of acquiring HIV. In a large randomized clinical trial called the iPrEx study, PrEP reduced the risk of infection by 92% among HIV-negative participants who took the medication.
2. If someone living with HIV is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load, they cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. The Opposites Attract study is the most recent of many studies to show zero HIV transmission events. The results of the study were presented at 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in July of 2017, and the US CDC endorsed this in September of 2017.
3. The sooner someone living with HIV initiates treatment, the better their long term health outcomes. While older guidelines used to recommend starting treatment at later stages of infection, we now know that starting treatment as soon as someone is ready reduces risk of negative AIDS-related outcomes and mortality by around half. This has been supported by observational studies, and as well as 2 randomized clinical trials called the START and TEMPRANO studies.
4. Rates of HIV are growing in certain demographics, including young men of color. While new HIV infections and diagnoses are declining overall in the United States, the trends vary widely among certain demographic groups. According to the CDC, between 2011 to 2015, diagnoses decreased by 10% among white male-identified people that have sex with other men (MSM), while diagnoses increased among MSM of color (4% among African American MSM, and 14% among Hispanic/Latino MSM). A promising trend is the plateau in new diagnoses among young African American MSM, who had experienced rapid increases in diagnoses over the previous several years. Other groups experiencing declines in diagnoses over the same time period include female-identified people, people reporting heterosexual orientation, and people who inject drugs. Geographically, the US South continues to have the highest rate of diagnoses, followed by the Northeast, West, and Midwest.
5. AIDS and HIV are not the same thing. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing, but they are related. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that infects a type of human immune cell, and it can be transmitted between people. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a condition that can occur in someone with an HIV infection if the virus is left untreated and damages their immune system, which can be a life-threatening condition. But AIDS can be prevented among people with an HIV infection if they take medications called antiretrovirals. This is why it’s important for someone with HIV to start treatment as soon as they are ready.
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