Controlling HIV can extend life expectancy

Many of our older population can recall the fear and panic of the awareness of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS) in the early 1980s. HIV-AIDS terrified people because there was no cure, and the most a person with HIV could expect was about three years of life and a lot of illness between diagnosis and death.

Today more is known. Though there still is no cure, when it is controlled, a person can live a much longer life. Treatment to control it is available. The earlier it is detected and treatment begun, the better. Early treatment can lengthen a lifetime by decades, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Half of the people with HIV know it, are in care, and are virally suppressed or undetectable.

Eight to 10 new HIV infections come from people who are not in HIV care.

One in seven people who have it don’t know it.

There are nearly 40,000 new HIV infections each year.

The new U.S. goal is to cut new HIV infections by at least 90 percent in the next 10 years.

HIV attacks the T-cells, the fighter cells that help the immune system to fight off infection. When enough T-cells are destroyed by HIV, the immune system becomes too weak to fight off infections and disease. AIDS is the last stage of HIV.

The CDC recommends that everyone between age 13 and 64 be tested at least once; people at high risk should be tested annually; and sexually-active gay and bisexual men, every three to six months.

Persons at high risk include those who misuse drugs because when they are high they are more likely to have unplanned, unprotected sex, and may not use a condom right, partner with more than one person and use shared needles to inject drugs. (Don’t share needles!)

“Those behaviors can increase your risk of exposure to HIV. If you have HIV, they can also increase your risk of spreading HIV to others,” advises the CDC. “Being drunk or high affects your ability to make safe choices.”

Health care providers are urged to talk to HIV patients about reasons why taking medication may be an issue, about how important it is to take the medications as prescribed. Also the health care provider should talk with the patient about mental health issues and the misuse of drugs and alcohol. These kinds of things may make it more difficult for them to stay in treatment. The CDC also includes support for HIV care, help with transportation, housing, health insurance and other needs.

In Ohio (2016), the Ohio Department of Health reported 982 new HIV diagnoses: 780 males and 202 females. If you are at risk, or if you think or know that you have been exposed, get tested and take care of yourself, your health. There still is no cure, but there can be decades of life ahead when HIV is controlled.

To learn more, visit online, www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Ohio Department of Health.

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