Take Charge of Your Health Today. Be Informed. Be Involved.

HIV/AIDS Stigma and Prevention


by Esther Bush 

This month’s “Take Charge of Your Health Today. Be Informed. Be Involved.” page addresses an important topic—the prevention of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a virus that attacks the immune system and can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if left untreated—and the decades-long stigma that surrounds those living with HIV/AIDS.

While we have made significant progress as a society since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there is still a lot of secrecy, shame and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS. Stigma can lead to people not being open about their HIV status. In turn, this can lead to people possibly passing on the infection to unsuspecting sexual partner(s) or not receiving proper medical treatment sooner to help combat the disease. Even though infection rates are higher in communities of color, that’s due more to the social determinants of health meaning where you live, work and play impacts your health and quality of life.   

In Allegheny County, the most recent HIV/AIDS statistics (from a 2017 report from the Allegheny County Health Department) state that the cumulative number of HIV cases reported from 1981 through December 2017 is 4,956. In 2017, there were 100 new cases of HIV reported in Allegheny County, which are 26 fewer cases than reported in 2016. This downward trend is good news. We may have loved ones or know someone whose life has been affected by HIV/AIDS.  The good news is there are now safe, effective medications that protect people from contracting sexually transmitted infections like HIV in the first place. And there are now better, more effective drugs that allow individuals living with HIV to live long lives. Some of the most effective prevention and risk-reduction methods people can use to protect themselves from contracting HIV/AIDS is to use barriers during sexual encounters and not sharing needles. It is also important to get tested regularly, at least once a year—to always know their status.

As always, research and people participating in research are how we even have the HIV medications in the first place. Therefore, it is crucial for people of color to participate in research. Without our involvement, our voices will continue to be left unheard, and research won’t reflect our life experiences or properly address our concerns and needs.

Note: This will be the last Take Charge of Your Health article under Esther L. Bush’s leadership. Starting with the January 2022 article, Carlos T. Carter the new President and CEO of the Urban league of Greater of Greater Pittsburgh.

Information Source: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/uploadedFiles/Allegheny_Home/Health_Department/Health_Services/STD_and_HIV-AIDS_Clinic/2017-STD-Report-Feb-11-2019.pdf

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