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HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if it is not treated.
When it comes to HIV, many people believe common stereotypes about who could be at risk for this serious illness. It is a commonly held belief that HIV wouldn’t be in “my” community, or that HIV only affects those with certain sexual preferences or those engaged in risky behaviors. In reality, HIV knows no boundaries between gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. Any sexually active person is at risk for exposure, especially those who have sex outside of a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship. In addition, anyone who has used injectable drugs or has had a sexual partner who has used injectable drugs is at higher risk for acquiring HIV.
Currently in North Georgia, we are experiencing an increase in those who have HIV positive status. This is believed to be due to our proximity to Atlanta, which has the 4 th highest HIV rates for any city in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as the increase in injectable drug use in North Georgia rural communities. These two factors, along with the fact that many people do not have access to HIV testing, have created an environment where we could see a dramatic rise in those who test positive in our area.
The only way to know for certain that you have not been exposed to HIV is to get tested. We work with the Health Department to offer FREE rapid HIV screening at The HOPE Center, so you can have the peace of mind in knowing your HIV status. Those not at risk for HIV are either abstinent or in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship with a partner who has also tested negative for HIV, and neither partner uses IV drugs.
There are medications out there to help those with HIV, but it is crucial to begin the medications as quickly as possible. Although there is currently no cure for HIV, one can live a long life and reduce their risk of spreading the virus by adhering to their treatment plan. The Health Educator who delivers your results will ensure that you have the proper next steps for further testing and treatment, if necessary. If your partner has a positive HIV status, and you are negative, there are steps you can take to prevent transmission, including a medication that you take each day. The Health Educator at your appointment can discuss all options with you and answer any questions you may have.