Today, Dec. 1, marks the 30th World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is “Know Your Status.”
One in seven people living with HIV are unaware of their infection. The Niagara County Department of Health Nursing Division continues to raise awareness on HIV and the importance of knowing one’s status, along with preventative measures one can take to protect themselves. Our Sexual Health Center screens every willing patient for HIV at each clinic visit. By using rapid HIV screening, individuals can be empowered to know their HIV status in just 20 minutes.
The Nursing Division has made even more progress by starting to offer PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for HIV. PrEP aligns with the New York State Department of Health’s plan to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020, by increasing access to this once-a-day prevention pill to help high-risk individuals from contracting HIV.
New York State was the first state to endorse Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U. This means that under proper treatment and a sustained undetectable viral load, an HIV-positive individual has effectively no risk of passing the disease to someone else who is HIV-negative. This ground-breaking science is also supported by the CDC.
Says Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton, “HIV continues to be a life altering disease, but with improvement in the detection and treatment there is still hope for those afflicted with the disease.”
Unfortunately, there are still many barriers in regard to HIV care. There continues to be stigma and discrimination which discourages individuals from getting tested, as well as barriers to care. The Nursing Division continues to advocate and promote testing for individuals and empowers those at-risk to consider PrEP, along with efficiently linking HIV-positive persons to care using our local community partners in Western New York.
If you or anyone you know has questions concerning HIV-related prevention and care, call us at 278-1900. You can also come to our fully confidential, walk-in Sexual Health Center Clinic on Mondays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Joanne Fabrizio, RN, is a public health nurse with the Niagara County health department.