HIV Care and Treatment Saves Lives By Chris Wade, IPHA – HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

Across the nation, many in the healthcare field are discussing how to decrease new HIV infections. One key to controlling HIV in Illinois is early medical care and treatment for those living with the virus. In Illinois, there were 35,953 people living with HIV at the end of 2013, with males comprising the majority. This is a 4.8% increase in the number of people living with HIV since 2012. This increase reflects HIV positive individuals living longer, as well as new diagnoses of HIV.

In 2013, IDPH reported 1,814 new HIV diagnoses and 860 AIDS diagnoses, of which 341 occurred after a previous diagnosis of HIV and 519 were concurrent HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Compared to a year earlier (2012), there was a 2.1% decrease in new HIV cases, a 4.9% decrease in AIDS cases, and 2.3% decrease in concurrent diagnoses.

Studies show that only 3 out of 10 Americans living with HIV were documented to have their infections controlled. And, most remarkably, two-thirds of those with uncontrolled infections had been diagnosed but were still not in care.

This highlights the urgent need to both reach more people with HIV testing and help ensure that those who test positive get prompt, sensitive, ongoing comprehensive care and treatment.

Once enrolled in medical care, eligible individuals living with HIV have access to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Treatment with antiretroviral medication can keep HIV controlled in the body, resulting in an undetectable viral load. This allows people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives and greatly reduces the chance that they will transmit HIV to others.

U.S. guidelines now recommend that everyone with HIV should receive treatment, regardless of their CD4 count or viral load.

Here’s what you can do to help stop HIV and help those living with HIV:

First, include HIV testing as a routine, regular part of your medical care. Far too many people with HIV don’t know that they are infected. Knowing your status is a critical step to protect your own health and avoid transmission to others.

Second, if you are living with HIV, do everything you can to be sure that you stay in care and take your medications as prescribed. This may include getting supportive services, such as housing, care for addiction, or help for mental health problems. Staying on HIV medications can give you a normal or nearly normal lifespan, and can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others by 96%.

You can provide the best possible care for yourself by enrolling in services with your Illinois HIV Care Connect Lead Agent. For more information on how to find a service provider in your area, please visit www.hivcareconnect.com.

Data Source: Illinois Department of Public Health HIV/AIDS Surveillance Unit. Data as of Dec. 2014

Chris Wade, IPHA – HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator can be reached at (309) 453-9042 or cwade@ipha.com