Two years ago, our lives changed fundamentally.
In March 2020, DC Health announced the city’s first COVID-19 case, and life began to transform almost overnight. Since then, we have lost over one million lives in the US to the virus.
COVID-19 is still our reality. Yet, as we move forward, it’s essential that we also address the other ongoing health priorities DC residents are and have been facing, particularly those living with HIV. Health experts saw a reduction in testing rates for HIV during the pandemic and, for some living with HIV that is undiagnosed or untreated, COVID-19 has a more significant impact.
These two viruses are unlike in many ways, but they are connected to our community’s well-being and strength. That’s why our work to end COVID-19 must be tied to our work combating the spread and stigma of HIV. Here’s what we can do.
Educate yourself on the latest
When it comes to your health, ignorance is never bliss. We all need to stay informed on the latest news for both viruses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website offers up-to-date information on COVID-19 — and it has a community-specific feature with the latest guidance in DC. DC Health has a portal, too. For HIV-related information, HIV.gov provides the latest numbers, approaches to care, and strategies to combat it.
Get tested routinely
Routine testing is a crucial step in keeping down infection rates.
HIV testing in DC is an easy and free way to protect yourself and others. Sexual Being and DC Health offer resources that can connect you with your ideal testing option for this and other sexually transmitted infections. Tests for HIV are recommended annually and can likely be accessed through a healthcare provider or local clinic.
COVID-19 testing options have significantly evolved, and recommendations are simple: get tested if you are experiencing symptoms and/or were exposed. The District has set up COVID centers that offer walk-up PCR testing for residents and take-home rapid antigen tests — alongside several DC libraries that also distribute them.
Use the right protection.
When facing both of these viruses, it’s important to remember how they are transmitted and the ways you can protect yourself from infection.
COVID-19 protection starts in one prominent place: vaccination. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine prevents serious — and potentially fatal — infection. With a number of safe and effective options available, it’s never been easier. Mask wearing, especially indoors, and adherence to the most recent CDC guidance involving isolation are also helpful.
Condoms and other safer sex practices are critical in preventing HIV infection during sex acts, while PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PeP (post-exposure prophylaxis) offer prescription cocktails that fight potential infection.
It’s never too late to make a difference, and together we can in the fight against COVID-19 and HIV. Explore your options at sexualbeing.org.