The moment someone is diagnosed with HIV, it can feel like a clock starts ticking. Time’s wasting. So why waste time? Start taking medication right away.
That’s the premise of a new strategy to prevent HIV, called Test and Treat. Doctors are giving people their first bottle of HIV medication the same day they are diagnosed, rather than waiting a few weeks for follow-up blood test results as has been the practice.
Research is showing that starting anti-retroviral medication as soon as possible can be an effective way to lower the amount of virus in your blood, which is good for you and can protect your loved ones and the community.
Ask your doctor about it. Test and Treat has several advantages:
- The faster the viral load in your bloodstream is knocked down to low levels – ideally, so low it cannot be detected – the better it is for your health. With an undetectable level, you are less likely to develop complications or AIDS.
- The less HIV in the blood, the less likely it is that you will spread the virus. Having an undetectable level reduces the chance of transmitting HIV by 95 percent, studies show. That protects your sexual partner(s) from HIV infection.
- Starting people immediately on medication increases the chance they will stay in treatment and remain healthy, research shows. Too often, people drop out of medical care and stop seeing the doctor during the weeks between their initial diagnosis and the confirmatory test results. They can still spread the virus in the community.
“Test and Treat benefits people who are newly diagnosed with HIV, as well as our whole community,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.
“We are working with the Florida Department of Health Central Office, Broward County Ryan White Part A Grantee Office and health care providers to implement Test and Treat throughout Broward County,” Dr. Thaqi says.
The strategy attempts to tackle a longstanding problem. As many as 30 percent of people never return for the first doctor appointment after they are diagnosed with HIV. For whatever reason – fear, denial, hopelessness, lack of insurance, etc. – they may not come back for treatment for months or years.
“If we start people on treatment immediately and maintain contact with them, it is more likely that they will continue taking their medication every day and stay healthy,” Dr. Thaqi says.
More information: Call DOH-Broward at 954-467-4700, Ext. 4991.
Above content provided by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County