Research and healthcare for HIV patients have come a long way since the 1970s and 80s. Today, people living with HIV have more treatment options and more healthcare professionals who understand how the disease works. However, people with HIV still face many challenges.
On National HIV Testing Day and beyond, PRA strives to educate and spread awareness about HIV, its history, and how the industry has progressed to help more people living with this disease.
Research, testing, and innovative therapies for HIV patients have improved markedly over time. However, discrimination and barriers remain, preventing patients from achieving life-saving care. Learn more in our latest blog post. #HIVTestingDay
Today, about 14% of people don’t know they have it. Among new infections, 40% are spread by people who don’t know they have the virus. Testing can make more people aware of their condition, which helps them learn more about how to protect themselves and others from HIV. Testing also leads to getting treatment, allowing people to live longer, healthier lives.
When someone knows they have HIV, they can get antiretroviral treatment (ART). ART works to lower the patient’s viral load, or how much HIV lives in their body. The lower the viral load, the lower the possibility of spreading HIV from one person to another. ART can reduce the HIV viral load to the point of undetectability in the blood, meaning the person doesn’t risk transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative person during sex.
Knowing whether a person is at risk can also help them find resources. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) helps to prevent HIV in at-risk people. Testing helps people learn about available resources, how to move forward with treatment if necessary, and what options they have to make healthy choices for their long-term health.
Learn more about how HIV awareness and testing has progressed from PRA experts.
Discrimination and Barriers
Healthcare has come a long way with HIV testing, awareness, and treatment in the past 40 years. Still, despite the efforts of awareness groups, researchers, and other healthcare professionals, many HIV patients experience discrimination and a lack of access to healthcare resources.
More than 50% of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide have reported facing discrimination in healthcare settings. People at greater risk of HIV infection often face demographic discrimination for the following:
- Health and socioeconomic status
- Gender and sexual orientation
That discrimination makes it difficult to get the care patients need and prevents them from receiving life-saving treatments. A 2019 study in Kenya showed that older adults with HIV had problems accessing adequate HIV care services, especially with comorbidities. The study also suggested that HIV care targeted toward that specific age group could prove beneficial in improving HIV treatment.
In 2018, 37.9 million people around the world were living with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa saw most new HIV infections diagnosed in adolescent girls in an area where treatment is less accessible. That same year showed that only 38% of people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia had access to ART, while that number was as low as 32% in Middle Eastern countries.
Barriers to care often arise from misconceptions surrounding HIV, including how it’s spread, who gets it, and its impact on patients and people around them. HIV can also significantly impact a person’s mental health and often co-occurs with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and ongoing stress. Today, specific resources help people with HIV-related mental health conditions, but that requires people to have access to those services.
CTA: Learn more about what needs to happen to create an HIV vaccine
HIV Research, Testing, and Treatment
Ongoing clinical research has created more treatment options, which means more people can get workable HIV therapy.
There were 1.7 million new HIV infections in 2019, which marks a 23% decline in new cases since 2010. That same year, 81% of people with HIV knew their status, and 67% had access to ART. While this is progress, there’s still a long way to go when millions are unaware of their status, and even more can’t access treatment.
Drug cocktails have long been used to treat HIV. However, more recent FDA-approved treatments offer less frequent therapies in the form of injections given every two months. Researchers are conducting trials for therapies given every three to six months and working toward treatments administered as infrequently as once a year. They are also looking at broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNabs) as a potential avenue toward a cure. Though researchers have not yet found a cure, the promise remains for better treatments that improve HIV patients’ quality of life even further.
One way to help eradicate HIV means educating people about the virus. That’s why PRA is raising awareness for the importance of HIV testing and treatment.
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