HIV Testing Data Suggests An Increase Of Cases

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HIV testing conducted nationwide indicates that there is a surge in HIV cases, taking over the previous year’s records. Initial signs of improvement hit rock bottom as more positive cases are recorded since the lockdown was lifted. The nation has been battling with STDs, including HIV, for decades now, and various measures that are being taken to control the infections aren’t working as it intended to. One of the reasons is the lack of testing. However, the nation has briefly managed to see positive results in keeping AIDS under control with new medicines. But with the coming of COVID-19, all the hope that was there to eradicate AIDS by 2030 is put on hold. Further HIV testing is needed in greater numbers if this is intended to be reached.

HIV Status In The US

The US is seeing a rise in HIV cases across both genders and various age groups. According to the CDC report, the nation is home to an estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV. In addition to this high number of HIV cases, nearly 161,800 people do not know that they are infected with the virus. This makes it easy for an infected person to spread the virus to other people without knowing they carry the virus.

People who do not know their status should get HIV testing to ensure a healthy sexual life and prevent the spread of the infection. One of the most alarming factors that contribute to the high rate of transmission is the lack of awareness and lack of testing. HIV tests show that about 40% of the infections are spread by people who are unaware of their status. Also, HIV can take time to develop symptoms. Without abnormal symptoms, many people do not feel the need to be tested and thus contribute to the 40% of the infected and unaware population.

The CDC recommends that every person who is sexually active and is between the age groups of 13 to 64 years get tested for HIV at least once during their routine check-up. Special recommendations for HIV testing are also made for pregnant women to prevent transmission from the mother to the infant during birth. Higher-risk people should opt for HIV testing annually.

HIV And COVID-19

The US has made a target to annihilate AIDS by 2030, but the steadily rising cases of HIV are indicating a setback. The primary reason for this limitation towards warding off HIV is COVID-19. With more health workers looking into the matters of the pandemic, the target is delayed. COVID-19 has a very high fatality rate compared to AIDS and has killed almost 600,000 US residents in 16 months as compared to 700,000 fatalities caused by AIDS in more than four decades.

Before COVID-19 started, the efforts to curb the spread of HIV showed a positive response. But recent HIV testing shows that the cases are increasing tremendously. Healthcare workers believe that the pandemic is a major contributor to the spike in HIV cases. The lockdown has stopped people from going to lab centers to get tested for HIV. This break in testing has been contributing to higher rates of infection as people continue to have sexual relations.

Prior to COVID-19 in 2019, then president, Donald Trump announced a campaign that seeks to eradicate the AIDS epidemic by 2030 after seeing improvements in handling HIV infections with new medicines. However, the goal of the campaign was hampered by the pandemic. As the nation experienced a lockdown, less HIV testing was carried out. With less testing, undiagnosed HIV patients continue to spread the infection to their partners without proper treatment or counselling.

Research conducted by the US health workers concluded that COVID-19 has negatively impacted HIV infections. There is a major backslide as testing and treatment saw a downward spiral. With less HIV testing or screening during the pandemic, the low rate of HIV infection is misleading. Researchers opine that COVID-19 may lead to a surge in HIV cases over the next two years as less testing is made and undiagnosed infected people are still at large. In a limited report by the CDC, there is a huge decrease in the number of testing and screening. According to the data by a major HIV testing lab, the CDC finds that HIV testing has degreased by 670,000. This means that many people are opting out of tests altogether and staying at home.

The CDC also reported a decrease of 4,900 HIV diagnoses compared to previous data before the pandemic. People who are at high risk for HIV are usually prescribed PrEP. or pre-exposure prophylaxis to reduce the chance of transmission through injection or sex. In addition to the reduced testing and diagnoses, PrEP. prescriptions also saw a decline by 21% across the nation. This means that a huge number of undiagnosed people are out there living an active sexual life and potentially infecting other people or that there is less sex during this period. This data is taken for a period between March and September 2020.

Reasons For The Misleading Declines In HIV Rates

As the COVID-19 pandemic demanded more attention from the health workers, most frontline workers, including HIV health workers, were shifted to oversee COVID units and patients. Many HIV testing clinics closed, but even though some remained open, the public did not want to visit them while the coronavirus was at large. Also, during the pandemic, many people were bound at home, and there was lesser sexual activity with multiple partners. These are some of the possible reasons why there has been a decline in HIV cases.

As the lockdown lifted and COVID-19 subsided, people were back to indulging in sexual activities. As more HIV testing was carried out, positive cases surged. Among the cases, bisexual and gay men hold the most cases. The nation is working towards making up for the missed testing during the pandemic. While there has been a backslide in the goals of controlling HIV and AIDS, the target to eradicate AIDS by 2030 remains the same as more HIV testing is carried out. 

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