Did you know that December 1st is World AIDS Day? According to the official World AIDS Day website,
World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.
Before we begin, take a moment to read up on the difference between HIV and AIDS. For both, it’s been an impressive, often difficult, and inspiring road of progress. Magic Johnson‘s honesty about his battle with HIV and cultural icon Princess Diana’s compassion towards those living with AIDS are just two of many signs that the global conversation about HIV and AIDS has shifted for the better. HIV went from a death sentence to a medical condition that someone can live a long, healthy, and happy life with.
Medical advances have largely added to that cultural shift, from increased life expectancy for people living with HIV (PLHIV) due to better treatment options, to the CDC endorsing “U Equals U”, a global message letting PLHIV know that if they achieve an undetectable viral load, their HIV virus is essentially untransmittable. Perhaps one of the largest game-changers was the introduction of a new protection method against HIV to the healthcare market.
Historically, if you did not want to contract HIV, you had two options: abstinence or using a condom every single time. Now, condoms are still the best method of protection against STDs/STIs if you’re sexually active, but there are cases in which someone wants (or needs!) an alternative method of protection against HIV. That’s where Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, comes in!
PrEP (also known by its name brand Truvada) is a once-daily pill that, when taken as prescribed, is over 90% effective at preventing transmission of HIV. We often get asked who PrEP is “for”, and our answer is always that it’s for anyone looking for protection against HIV! However, there are factors that make certain individuals better candidates for PrEP called “risk factors“. If you’re unsure of whether PrEP would be right for you, check out this simple 60-second online quiz from The Stigma Project.
There are also communities that are at higher risk of HIV transmission, particularly within DC. These groups include:
- Heterosexual women (particularly Black women)
- Gay and Bi men (particularly Black and Latino)
- Transgender women (particularly Black and Latina)
We could go over why HIV rates might be higher in these groups but, honestly, what really matters is that we are connecting individuals to resources tailored to them. To do so, we take a digital and a physical approach. In case you came here from the Twitter Town Hall…hello! You’re on sexualbeing.org, a sex positive web initiative created by DC Health to help connect DC residents to sexual health resources available in the District. On this website, we have tailored campaigns for each of the above at-risk communities:
#PrEPforHer is a movement to encourage women to learn more about healthy sex options, like PrEP.
Explore PrEP: PrEPare for the Possibilities is the District’s campaign to raise awareness among same-gender loving men about PrEP.
#PrEPPledge is our first-ever transgender facing PrEP campaign. The campaign page contains resources tailored to those who identify as transgender. We also have #PrEPPledge Latina, a Spanish-first page for those in our community who mainly speak Spanish.
We love to take this messaging beyond the website onto social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), so be sure to give us a follow on those platforms if you want to hear more about our PrEP-related initiatives. If you are looking for resources in person, check out the DC Health and Wellness Center:
At the Health and Wellness Center we provide free HIV testing to anyone who walks through our door regardless of insurance status, state of residence or country of origin. Results will be available within minutes. All of your information is confidential and we fiercely protect your privacy.
Knowing your HIV status is important. We estimate that 14% of individuals in DC who are HIV positive are currently unaware of their status. At the Health and Wellness Center we will help you with your result, either positive or negative. If your results are positive, we will work to provide you with antiretroviral therapy on the same day you receive your result. We have specialists on-site to provide counseling and linkage to HIV speciality care. If your results are negative, we will work with you to maintain your status. We provide same day pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication which can reduce your risk of acquiring HIV by up to 92%.
We look forward to serving you at the Health and Wellness Center!
Dr. Adam Visconti, Chief Medical Officer, DC Health
There you have it! No matter what your PrEP needs, we hope to fill them appropriately. Here are a few additional resources for World AIDS Day:
- Don’t know your status? Find a testing center near you today.
- Unsure of where to find PrEP? Use our PrEP locator.
- Living with HIV? Explore our #PozLife page – if you’re considering starting a family, check out our family planning page!
- Looking for protection against STDs/STIs beyond HIV? Take advantage of our free condom program!