A recent study from the CDC has found that HIV infection among young, urbanite gay men is on the rise. According to the report, researchers gathered data from 1994 to 2008 in 5 different cities across the U.S., showing a rising 16% prevalence of HIV among 23 to 29 year olds and a steady 11% rate among 18 to 22 year olds. These numbers are depressing, but news from earlier this month may just help ease the sting.
A widely publicized development, the OraQuick at-home HIV test is set to provide many HIV-positive Americans with the knowledge of their condition, which for many is a dangerously unknown status. The device uses simple mouth swabs to determine the presence of HIV antibodies, and does so remarkably quickly, in about 30 minutes time. Now this is by no means a substitute for a test done by a medical professional; the test only detected the virus 92% of the time in those known to be infected, but did show a 99.9% accuracy in determining a negative status. This means that those who test positive should see a doctor immediately for a more accurate test and to discuss treatment options.
Now, knowing your status is easily one of the biggest components in stopping the spread of this deadly disease. But as many studies show, there are still many people who don’t know they’re carrying the virus. For those who are HIV-negative, the FDA has approved Truvada, a drug long used in the treatment of those infected, as a new preventative treatment. When coupled with safe-sex practices, the drug can reduce a person’s risk by as much as 75% (according to one study; another showed only a 42% reduced risk). As noted however, safe-sex practices still remain incredibly important; condom use is one of the easiest and most preventative measures a person can take to not only protect themselves, but their partners as well.
Queer Health is a bi-monthly feature that shares information about important health issues. Look for Queer Health every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month.