When it comes to HIV there are a lot of medical terms bandied about, things like viral load, CD4, HART, ARV, advanced infection and resistance to name just a few, and if you (like me), are not a doctor these can initially be somewhat confusing. What I’m talking about today however is ‘Early Diagnosis’.
Early Diagnosis is just that, making a diagnosis of HIV in the early stages of the disease. Whilst there is no defined time scale for Early Diagnosis it’s widely taken to mean within a year of the initial infection.
What are the benefits to Early Detection?
- You can start receiving specialist care. Some people may not need treatment for years, others like myself, might start in a matter of months. But once you’re under the care of a HIV clinic their regular monitoring will make sure you stay in tip top condition and recommend treatment to you – when it’s appropriate.
- You’ll live longer. Studies have shown that the earlier you’re diagnosed the longer you’ll live. Things have come on in leaps and bounds in the last 30 years and someone diagnosed in their twenties will now live until their mid-seventies, and that’s without any advances in care that happen in the meantime.
- You can protect others. Knowledge is power. By knowing that you’re HIV+ you can inform past sexual partners that may have been at risk, and make more informed and responsible decisions with any future partners. Modern treatment can also reduce the risk of passing on the infection by upto 96%.
What are the challenges to Early Detection initiatives?
- Ignorance. Many people believe that they’ll know if/when they have HIV through symptoms such as a flu, or a rash. However, many people who contract HIV, myself included, show no symptoms at all, and even if they do experience flu like symptoms they may think it’s just the flu and nothing more serious.
- Fear. The idea that you may have HIV isn’t a nice one, in fact for most people it’s down right terrifying. This leads to people burying their heads in the sand and putting off testing. Other people are put off because they’re afraid of the tests themselves, when in fact most HIV testing is done in minutes with a simple prick test.
- Denial. I didn’t think I’d ever get HIV. I’m in my twenties, I was look after myself, HIV doesn’t happen to people like me does it? Wrong. HIV can happen to anyone, and at any time.
So, what next?
- Inform the masses. HIV awareness campaigns tend to be limited to niche publications, such as the gay press. I think there’s a pressing need for a national campaign, both in print and on TV, but unlike the adverts of the 80’s we need to inform, teach and encourage to test rather than shock and scare.
- Fight the stigma. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding people living with HIV, again this is firmly rooted in the 80’s where HIV and AIDS was portrayed as a dirty disease that affected dirty deviant people. We need to show that HIV affects people from all walks of life, and can be contracted in any manner of ways.
- Encourage testing. Through these new campagins, both nationally and targetted at specific communities, we need to encourage regular testing. Let people know that it takes only a few minutes, doesn’t involve needles and is free of charge.
Please, if you can, donate to one of the HIV charities and help them raise awareness and provide services. Consider reblogging/retweeting/facebooking/sharing this blog post to your followers and friends to do your part to raise awareness about the benefits of Early Detection. It only takes one click and could positively impact on any number of lives.
Love and respect,