Rise in HIV cases in Wyoming highlights need for prevention

Rise in HIV cases in Wyoming highlights need for prevention

Rise in HIV cases in Wyoming highlights need for prevention

February 5, 2024

Rise in HIV cases in Wyoming highlights need for prevention

As newly diagnosed cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) increase in Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is urgently implementing testing and other prevention strategies.

Reginald McClinton, surveillance program manager for the Communicable Disease Unit (CDU), said 22 cases were reported in 2023, up from 13 in 2022 and higher than the 12 to 15 cases reported annually in Wyoming. typical range. “McClinton said.

Of the reported cases, 82% were male, 18% female, 36% heterosexual and 64% LGBTQ+. Ages ranged from 24 to 77 years old.

Common risk factors are having condomless sex, multiple and/or anonymous sex partners, and meeting sex partners through dating and hookup apps.

“Unfortunately, there is a common misconception in Wyoming that HIV only affects gay men,” said Leslie Fowler, WDH infectious disease prevention program manager. “This leads to a lack of HIV testing, which in turn causes patients to Poor treatment outcomes and the continued spread of HIV in the population.”

“Our internal and outreach staff have done a tremendous job to dispel myths related to HIV. In fact, we are increasing safety net HIV testing in Wyoming by 24 percent by 2023,” Fowler said.

HIV is a virus that attacks and weakens the body’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. HIV infection progresses in stages and can worsen over time if left untreated. HIV eventually leads to what is commonly known as AIDS.

“Almost half of Wyomingites diagnosed in 2023 were already in the later stages of infection,” said Katelyn Hoff, an epidemiologist and disease intervention specialist at WDH. “This suggests that opportunities for early diagnosis and initiation of treatment may have been missed. Chance.”

Hof noted that the earlier treatment is started, the better outcomes patients will have. “Although there is no cure for HIV, it can be managed with HIV treatment,” she said.

HIV treatment involves taking medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Antiretroviral treatment reduces the amount of HIV in the body, helping people with HIV to stay healthy and not spread the virus to others.

“In fact, HIV treatment can reduce viral load to the point where it is undetectable by a test. You’ll see references to ‘U=U’ or ‘undetectable = untransmittable,’ referring to people living with HIV who have at least An undetectable state for six months,” Hof said. “People living with HIV who have undetectable viral loads are unable to effectively transmit HIV to their sexual partners as long as they continue to take their prescribed HIV medications and continue to see their doctor for HIV treatment.”

Whether it’s HIV or another sexually transmitted infection (STI), many people infected never notice symptoms, Fowler said. “The only way to know for sure is to get tested. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can take steps to protect your health. We recommend that sexually active individuals get tested annually for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia at all sites of sexual contact , and tested two weeks after each sexual partner or contact, or every one to three months for regular sexual partners or contacts.

HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention strategies include:

  • Avoid all types of sexual contact.
  • Get tested before you start having sex with your ex-partner or resume a sexual relationship.
  • Before having sexual contact, ask potential sexual partners if they have been tested since their last sexual partner.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners.
  • Choose lower-risk types of sexual contact.
  • Always use condoms correctly during all types of sexual contact. Condoms come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials to overcome fit, comfort and allergy challenges.
  • Get routine testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • If injecting or snorting substances, never share needles or other equipment.

WDH also recommends that some people use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV. PrEP is a daily medication that significantly reduces the chance of contracting HIV in high-risk people. For more information about PrEP, visit Wyoming W[h]Y PrEP Matters website. Another option, called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), involves using drugs to prevent contracting HIV after exposure. PEP must be started within 72 hours of exposure and continued for 28 days.

To find free KnoWyo condom locations or in-person and at-home testing options, visit www.KnoWyo.org. The website also provides information on maintaining undetectable HIV status and comprehensive support for some people living with HIV.

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