As we continue to fight COVID-19, we know that there is another epidemic that has been raging for the past 40 years – HIV. Thus far, there have been advancements in medicine with drugs like Genvoya, which only need to be taken once a day instead of the drug cocktail of multiple pills that that many were taking 15 years ago. However, even though many are getting their viral load under control, certain populations are still at an increased risk of infection. Recent CDC data shows that 26% of all new HIV diagnoses were among Black gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13-34.[i] The CDC also reported that Hispanic gay and bisexual men in the same age range make up about 22% of all new HIV infections.[ii] This data is alarming since other groups, including those within the LGBTQ community, have seen a continued decline in new HIV infections. Evidence points to HIV Stigma as being the main reason why Black and Hispanic gay and bisexual men do not get tested regularly and seem to be the groups being diagnosed at high rates.
HIV stigma is the negative beliefs about people living with HIV; Beliefs such as HIV positive individuals are “dirty”, “deserving of their diagnosis”, “less than”, etc. According to the CDC, many people living with HIV have internalized HIV-related stigma, meaning they believe that they too deserve their diagnosis, are dirty, etc.[iii] The only way that we can combat this is by having meaningful conversations around HIV and understand that within the medical field HIV is seen as a chronic illness now and that if one is taking their pills as prescribed, then they can suppress the virus and live a long and healthy life.
It is for this reason that Greater Family Health is offering FREE HIV and STD testing at our Elgin, Sycamore, Streamwood, and Wheeling locations. We understand that HIV is still spreading in certain communities, and we are going to do all we can to ensure that those groups receive the medical care they deserve. The first step is to come in and get tested. Testing is fast and easy with a small prick of the finger and in 20 minutes, one can know their status. Patients can also learn their options to prevent or treat HIV.
We can #StopHIV if we reduce the stigma by making testing and conversations around HIV part of our daily lives!