COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH)– HIV research and treatment has come so far over the past 30 years that diagnosis has gone from a near definite death sentence to a virus that can be managed with medication to the point of non-detection in the body. That point of non-detection also means non-transmittable, according to infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center Dr. Carlos Malvestutto.
Getting tested is key, Malvestutto stressed, as nearly 15% of those with HIV don’t know they have it because they have never been tested.
“The test is easy to do. It should be offered widely,” said Malvestutto.
“It should be offered in community centers, high schools, churches, places where people gather, syringe exchange programs, so that people can be given the results and then linked to care from that point.”
Linked to places like Out of the Closet Thrift Store that offers free HIV testing and counseling seven days a week.
“It’s just a finger prick, kind of like getting your blood sugar tested,” said program manager at AIDS Healthcare Foundation at Out of the Closet, Jacob Shrimplin. “It’s one minute, right then and there. If it so happens that we do see a reactive on the test, we also do rapid linkage. We get you into an appointment as soon as we possibly can right there in the room before you leave us.”
In 2017, Franklin County had 238 newly diagnosed cases of HIV and 5,149 people living with the virus. The county is considered one of 48 locations nationwide identified as a “hotspot” for new HIV infections.
The global target for eliminating HIV is called the 90-90-90. That means 90% of people living with HIV know their status with 90% of those people on treatment leading to 90% who are virally suppressed.
“That first target nationally is about 86%. In Ohio, it’s a little bit less than that and it varies in different communities,” Dr. Malvestutto explained. “The [90-90-90 target] has already been achieved by other counties as well.”
Additionally, Columbus Public Health recently launched their “Know HIV. No Fear.” campaign to raise awareness and reduce stigma around HIV. The campaign features local residents sharing their experiences with HIV testing, treatment and prevention.
The campaign also encourages the use of the prescription drug PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP helps those who are HIV-negative who may be at a higher risk of contracting it, stay HIV-negative. High-risk populations encouraged to consider PrEP include gay and bisexual men, trans women, people who inject drugs, people in a relationship where one person is living with HIV, and straight/bi women of color, according to Columbus Public Health.
Dr. Malvestutto advocates for PrEP usage as well.
Patients just take a pill everyday, and this pill reduces the risk of transmission, even if you are exposed to HIV, the transmission rate is reduced by almost 95%.Dr. Malvestutto
For more information on HIV or PrEP and how to get tested or the prescription in Franklin County for free or at a reduced price CLICK HERE.