December 1st marks World AIDS Day – a time each year when we pause to reflect on the incredible progress made in the global battle against HIV/AIDS, and recommit to continue the fight until the epidemic is over. Though this disease is no longer the almost certain death sentence it once was, every new infection is one infection too many. For those with the means to access lifesaving medication, HIV/AIDS is a manageable chronic condition, but still one that can affect everyday life. For those who face financial, social, and geographical barriers to treatment, AIDS still claims lives around the world.
Fenway Health has created the following infographic to provide a snapshot of HIV/AIDS today. The numbers show that, while infection rates have certainly decreased since the epidemic’s height three decades ago, the LGBT community still bears a heavy burden. For example, although men who have sex with men (MSM) only make up 2% of the general United States population, they account for a staggering 63% of new HIV infections. For young black MSM, the numbers are even higher – they account for over half of all new HIV infections among young MSM.
Family acceptance plays a huge part in determining HIV risk for LGBT youth. Studies show that when young LGBT adults feel rejected by their families, they are more than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and other STDs than their peers. This is likely due to the health challenges and behaviors that often result from family rejection, such as injection drug use, condomless sex, homelessness, depression, and survival sex.
The more marginalized a group is, the higher their risk of HIV infection tends to be. Transgender women face extremely disproportionate rates of HIV infection, with 19% globally living with HIV. Of intimate partner violence survivors, many of whom experience isolation from their community and health resources, 26% reported that they are HIV positive.
There is clearly much to still be done to end new HIV infections once and for all. While scientists, researchers, and health advocates work to find a cure and improve prevention methods, each of us can also do our part. The first step? Breaking the silence around HIV/AIDS and starting conversations. Over half of all Americans never discuss HIV/AIDS with their intimate partners, but your health is too important to ignore. The next step is getting tested, early and often. Currently, 43% of Americans have never been tested for HIV, and one in eight people don’t know they are HIV-positive. And those living with HIV aren’t always accessing the care they need to stay healthy – only 36% receive appropriate medical treatment.
The Fenway Institute has created a learning module called Getting to Zero: Reducing HIV Incidence through Screening, Treatment, and Prevention that is a great starting point for learning about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. This module provides an overview of HIV incidence and prevalence in the United States, highlights groups most at risk for contracting HIV, describes the current state of HIV and STI screening, and explains biomedical and other interventions effective to curb the transmission of HIV. Providers will find HIV/AIDS guidance through effective screening and prevention methods, as well as communication strategies for talking to patients about their care.
With education and regular testing, we can lower HIV infection rates, improve the lives of those living with HIV, and break down the stigma globally and in our own backyards. How will you commit to ending the epidemic?
Want to receive email updates about what’s happening at Fenway Health? Sign up here.