Houston records some of the nation’s highest HIV diagnoses; Health officials hope for vaccines in the near future

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Houston – The southern part of the United States accounts for 51% of new HIV infections each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some states in the south are also providing HIV prevention services and care.

The fourth largest metro area in the US is known for reaching new heights. H-Town is recording the highest HIV diagnosis and infection rate in the country.

Marlene McNeese is the Deputy Assistant Director of the Houston Health Department.

“The idea that we have most of the burden of HIV, unfortunately, speaks to other systemic issues in the South, health care and people who don’t have health care insurance and don’t have access to care easily. There are implications, and there’s more disease here when these conditions exist. There are about 1,200 new HIV diagnoses on average every year. we will do.

McNeese said the Covid-19 pandemic has led to disruptions and reduced access to HIV testing and, in some cases, treatment.

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The Houston native, who did not want to be identified, spoke to KPRC 2 about his personal story with HIV. He said he was tested positive at the time of the outbreak and had no idea if he tested positive.

“Last year in September. My advice to everyone out there is to get tested immediately. They want to know your situation. If more people get tested, we can reduce the spread,” he said.

The self-proclaimed straight man says his HIV diagnosis changed his life for the better.

“I’m more health conscious. I’m stable on my medication. HIV/AIDS doesn’t discriminate.”

Gender, sexual orientation, age, and race: All are irrelevant when it comes to contracting HIV. McNeese said anyone who has sex should be tested regularly for the virus.

“The idea that I’m not going to get tested for HIV because I’ve done something dangerous, I’m getting tested for HIV as part of my annual medical checkup,” McNeese said.

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McNeese reiterated that prevention and treatment have come a long way.

“What’s surprising is that the treatment and prevention of HIV does not require this specialty. It’s a miracle that any clinical provider can become a primary care professional for their patients,” McNeese said.

As the city of Houston continues to fight HIV, health department officials are doing what they can to help people living with the chronic disease.

One of the things we do at the Houston Health Department is working with our community partners. We fund many organizations to provide access in the community, which means we don’t wait for people to come to our brick-and-mortar buildings, but literally go out into our communities where people live, work, breathe and play and pilot access directly. For them,” McNeese said. “We need to remove any barriers that can serve as a challenge for people, for many, especially in the city of Houston, it can mean transportation, being able to get in person and hopefully we can do some of these services to provide support where they can be provided in the homes of individuals. I think the other part of the gap is how we need to think about how our systems are laid out, so previously marginalized, marginalized people feel safe in a safe place when they seek these services, and unfortunately that’s still a challenge and a barrier that we’re trying to overcome.

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The first reported case of HIV was recorded in 1981. The virus spread rapidly and became a global pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, more than 40.1 million people have died from HIV/AIDS complications.

“For many of our communities, we have not been in that position for a long time. So, it’s not a death sentence right now,” McNeese explained.

While the fear and terror of HIV may be behind us, McNeese said the virus is inspiring new research every day, paving the way for a healthier, stronger Houston.

McNeese hopes an HIV vaccine will be available in the near future. She said the telehealth systems brought about by the outbreak are critical in fighting the virus.

According to health officials, unknown equals non-transmissible. People who have an undetectable viral load for at least six months and are on treatment cannot transmit HIV sexually.

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Click here For more information, contact the City of Houston for HIV.

Read more Stories from KPRC2’s Strongest Houston Series.

Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston – All Rights Reserved.

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