Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today highlighted the importance of routine testing for HIV, as nearly 40 percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know they have the virus, and emphasized treatment as a prevention tool to decrease the prevalence of HIV.
“Early detection and treatment of HIV can control the virus and make it undetectable, leading to a long, healthy life,” Dr. Levine said. “The latest science shows that people living with HIV who take HIV medication as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner. We encourage all Pennsylvanians to know the facts about HIV so they can effectively decrease the stigma surrounding this virus and ultimately reduce the number of new HIV cases in the state.”
There is no cure for HIV, which is why it is so important to get tested for the virus. It is recommended that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 gets tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. HIV attacks the body’s immune system so it can no longer fight off infections. If left untreated, a person can develop other serious infections or infection-related cancers. These infections can lead a person to develop AIDS, the most severe and last phase of HIV infection. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive for about three years.
For individuals who do not have HIV but may be at high risk for acquiring it, there is a once-daily HIV prevention medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Anyone can get a free and confidential HIV screening at any health department-supported testing site
The community group, Prevention Access Campaign, launched the U=U campaign (undetectable=untransmittable) in 2016 to help bring awareness about viral suppression and transmission regarding HIV. The campaign messaging aims to reduce the shame and fear of sexual transmission; eliminate HIV stigma on the personal, clinical and community level; encourages people living with HIV to start and stay on treatment, which will improve personal and public health outcomes; and strengthens advocacy efforts for universal access to testing and treatment.