BOISE – A new Idaho-based initiative seeks to empower Idahoans to reduce HIV stigma and promote HIV testing, prevention, and treatment.
Called Let’s Stop HIV Together – Idaho, the initiative is in line with a similar initiative launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Today, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day, and we encourage communities across Idaho to help reduce HIV infections, reduce HIV-related stigma, and improve the health of those living with HIV,” said Aimee Shipman, manager for the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Section in the Division of Public Health at the Department of Health and Welfare.
Shipman said the initiative is the first of its kind in Idaho and will have a phased approach over the next 12 months. The first phase, which launches today, focuses on testing. This includes distributing tool kits to prevention partners and health care providers and promoting improved access to HIV testing via at-home testing methods.
National physician groups recommend that everyone be tested for HIV at least once, but fewer than 30% of adult Idahoans have been tested. Rural Idahoans are even less likely to be tested. Early testing allows people to get the health care they need to prevent HIV, or if they’re already infected to get treatment, protect their partners, and live long and healthy lives.
“We all have an HIV status, and we should all know it,” Shipman said. “I’m excited to see this initiative launch to provide information and resources to continue to build healthier communities.”
As part of the new initiative, the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Section is sharing information with health care providers, community organizations, and Idahoans. Visit www.FindIdahoTesting.com and https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/health-wellness/diseases-conditions/hiv for more information.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes HIV infection. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the most advanced state of HIV infection and is also known as HIV Stage 3.
HIV attacks the infection-fighting cells of the immune system. The destruction of these cells makes it difficult for the body to protect against infections and certain cancers. Without treatment, HIV can gradually destroy the immune system and progress to AIDs.
Medications to treat HIV infection can help people maintain a healthy immune system, prevent transmission of the virus, and maintain long, healthy lives.
HIV testing and treatment have advanced
Due to increased awareness and ongoing research, there have been improvements in testing, prevention, and treatment for HIV.
- Home Testing: Free, rapid at-home HIV testing kits take only 20 minutes and can be delivered confidentially to your home. Order a free HIV test at www.TakeMeHome.org.
- Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): PrEP is a medication that reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%. Most insurance plans cover PrEP services, and there are patient assistance programs for uninsured and underinsured people.
- People are living longer, healthier lives: For Idahoans who learn they have HIV, there are many free resources available to help them get the medical care, support, and medications they need. HIV can be managed just like other diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.
- Undetectable = Untransmittable: Taking HIV medication as prescribed and maintaining an undetectable viral load are the best things a person living with HIV can do to stay healthy and prevent transmission.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.