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Thirty Years of AIDS in America HIV/AIDS is a Family IssueBy: Dr. Roger Muller for Salem-News.com
Care for yourself and your family in honor of National HIV Testing Day, June 27
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - HIV/AIDS is not solely an individual concern. It is a family issue that we can’t afford to ignore. It affects not only the person living with the virus, but the entire family and, ultimately, our entire community.
“National HIV Testing Day” is June 27 – a good reminder to turn our attention to the ways HIV/AIDS affects our families as well as our community. This month, various campaigns are running across the country to dispel myths, improve education and remind people that HIV has not gone away. But we should not have to wait until June 27 to have a conversation. People should treat HIV like any other disease and incorporate it into their regular dialogue about health.
It has been 30 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first case of a deadly new syndrome that would come to be known as HIV/AIDS. Over the years, we have made great strides in preventing HIV transmission and treating people with HIV and AIDS. Prescription drugs, long-term care plans, healthy-lifestyle interventions and innovative treatments are improving. Americans with HIV and AIDS are living longer, healthier and more productive lives. But we still have a long way to go.
According to the CDC, more than 1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, and more than 20 percent of them are living with HIV but are unaware of their infection. The CDC estimates that more than 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, and more than 18,000 people with AIDS die each year in the U.S.
In Oregon, an estimated 3,106 residents are living with a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS, according to the latest CDC data. Among all states, the highest infection rates were in New York, California, Florida and Texas, primarily because the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is highest in major metropolitan areas. The states with the lowest infection rates included North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.
How AIDS Affects African Americans
By race/ethnicity, African Americans are severely and disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in the United States, according to the CDC. African Americans represent roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population; however, they account for almost half of people living with HIV as well as nearly half of new infections each year, far surpassing any other racial or ethnic group. There is no scientific evidence that demonstrates that African Americans are more susceptible to HIV infection, and efforts to prevent HIV transmission are equally effective in the African-American population as in other populations.
According to the CDC, many African Americans face the same challenges as other ethnic groups that contribute to higher rates of HIV infection, including socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, unprotected sex, injection drug use, lack of awareness of HIV status, and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The presence of certain STDs can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV infection.
What We Can Do
HIV/AIDS is both preventable and treatable. Early diagnosis and proper care help people with HIV/AIDS live longer and healthier lives and prevent them from spreading the disease to others. Yet, one in five Americans living with HIV today does not know it. The CDC identifies stigma as a major contributor to the spread of HIV. Shame keeps people from seeking information, speaking openly, using protection, getting tested and treated, and otherwise acting to protect themselves and those they love.
HIV testing is fast, easy, widely available and can be done confidentially. Without needles, rapid HIV tests provide results in less than half an hour. Local health departments can provide information on how to get tested at no cost.
This June, if you feel you may be at risk, give yourself the gift of knowing your HIV status – and encourage those you love to do the same.
To learn more about HIV, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov. UnitedHealthcare’s Generations of Wellness® website (www.uhcgenerations.com) offers online tools and culturally relevant health information to help African Americans enhance their health and quality of life.
By: Dr. Roger Muller is the senior medical director of United Healthcare of Oregon.
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