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HIV and AIDS – Facts and Prevention

December 1 was World AIDS Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a million people in the United States are living with HIV. It is estimated that one out of five Americans with HIV do not know they have the infection. Dr. Raghavendra Tirupathi, medical director of Keystone Infectious Diseases and Keystone Health’s HIV program, and physician at Keystone Internal Medicine says it’s important that everyone educates themselves about HIV facts and prevention.

What is HIV? HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells which help the body fight disease.

What is AIDS? HIV, if left untreated, can develop into AIDS — acquired immune deficiency syndrome. At this stage of the HIV infection, a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting disease and certain cancers.

How is HIV/AIDS spread and not spread? HIV is not spread by saliva, kissing, shaking hands or sharing utensils. It is not spread through insect bites, air or water. HIV is transmitted through sex with either a man or woman without the use of condoms. HIV can also be spread through using IV drugs or having a partner who uses IV drugs. Pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby by pregnancy or through breastfeeding. Getting tattoos or body piercing does present a potential risk if obtained from an unlicensed facility or if performed in an unsterile way.

Who should be tested? Everyone between the age of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once in their lifetime, even if you don’t think you are at risk. For those who have had more than one sexual partner in the last six months, have a history of sexually transmitted disease in the last year or have a history of IV drug use, you should be tested at least once every year. For those who have high-risk sexual behaviors, multiple partners, have sex in exchange for money, or use injection drugs, testing is recommended every three to six months.

Free Testing Available In Franklin County, free and confidential HIV testing is provided on a walk-in basis at these locations: Keystone Internal Medicine (830 5th Ave Suite 201, Chambersburg) and Keystone Community Outreach (455 Lincoln Way East, Chambersburg). The completely confidential testing is very quick—it only takes a few minutes and results are ready in less than half an hour. This non-invasive test is done by simply swabbing the gums—no blood is involved. No appointment is needed; you can simply walk in during business hours.

Know your status Getting tested is the only way to know your status. If HIV is detected early and treated, you can expect a higher quality of life and a longer life. And the good news is there is help available in our community for those who are HIV positive.  The Keystone Health HIV Program provides medical and support services to HIV positive individuals.

 

This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.