While advancements have been made in treating HIV, some statistics are cause for concern. One in seven people in the United States is infected with HIV and is unaware they have the disease. One-third of new cases impact those between 15-24 years of age.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that Texas has one of the highest infection rates in the country, and there has been a 12 percent increase in Bexar Country since 2014.
Testing is the only way for those living with undiagnosed HIV to know their status and receive proper treatment. In recognition of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, UT Health San Antonio is encouraging students and employees to get tested for HIV.
HIV is not the death sentence it once was.
“We have very effective drugs to treat HIV,” said Waridibo Allison, M.D., Ph.D., infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio and medical director of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation Care Clinic. “Even though there is no cure for HIV, there is what we call a ‘functional cure,’ in that we can get the virus undetectable in your blood with the proper treatment.”
Dr. Allison recommends that anyone who is sexually active get tested at least once a year. “Frequently, people get tested for diabetes or for their cholesterol as part of their routine health care,” she said. “Testing for HIV should be part of that routine.”
Dr. Allison believes that the stigma associated with HIV stems from the lack of information, which leads to fear. “There is the fear of how (someone) is going to get it. There are misconceptions for how it is transferred, things like, ‘if I drink from the same cup as them or if I share their cutlery.'”
For the record, HIV is spread through bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. It is passed from one person to another by:
- Having sex (vaginal, anal or oral) without a condom or dental dam with a person who has HIV;
- Sharing needles with someone who has HIV;
- Breastfeeding, pregnancy or childbirth;
- Getting a blood transfusion that’s infected with HIV (very rare in the United States)
UT Health San Antonio faculty, staff, residents and students can get tested at the Student Health & Wellness Center on the Long campus. Fees are determined by insurance.
Other testing locations in San Antonio include:
San Antonio Aids Foundation (free)
333 S Hackberry St., San Antonio, TX 78203
Metropolitan Health Department (fees vary depending on services provided)
512 East Highland, San Antonio, TX 78210