While we were all enjoying this month of love, the CDC delivered some sobering news: HIV rates are no longer falling.
PrEP adoption has sky rocketed over the last few years, but the virus that decimated our communities for so many years, that we once had a handle on, now appears to be on the verge of a comeback in certain communities. The reason for the decline boils down to a lack of effective HIV education prevention, primarily among African American, Latinx and rural communities.
The high we felt from ever falling risk of infection could only last so long. This unfortunate news is like a bad hangover.
When breaking down the numbers, a familiar picture appears. Gay and bisexual men (ages 25-54) are predominantly effected, especially pronounced for minority patients.
Simply put - HIV continues to disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
So what happened? In the midst of all the strides we've made in LGBTQ rights, in distributing PrEP, in protecting our community, did we miss something? Did we stop paying attention? Did we forget the traumas of past decades?
Unfortunately, that wasn't the only bad news. A new report from the NIH found that men under 24 are significantly less likely to know about their infection or to achieve viral suppression.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the implications here.
Black and Brown young people are seeing their infection rates increase and they're more likely to not know or have the resources to achieve suppression. This is a recipe for disaster for those communities. We have to do better.
Fortunately, there is a better way. We know how to prevent new infections, it just takes political and communal will power.
Test, treat, and repeat.
These studies underscore the absolute necessity of informing young people, hell, we need to inform ALL people about ways to avoid new HIV infections.
First, it's important that every one know that patients that achieve viral suppression cannot transmit the virus. This is sometimes referred to U=U, and treatment as prevention (TasP) is unbelievably effective at reducing new infections.
This requires knowing your status, so testing is the most crucial step. If you're positive, we've got great news, virally suppressed HIV+ patients live equally long, happy lives that their counterparts live. If you're negative, we have an incredibly effective medication at preventing future infection - PrEP.
Advances in technology have now made it possible for patients to complete all the steps to get and stay on PrEP from the comfort of their home. Telemedicine paired with patient self-collection removes any logistical barriers that would otherwise keep an excellent candidate from benefiting from PrEP.
While we know that PrEP, when taken daily, is 99% effective at preventing HIV infection, that's only part of the solution. The other, perhaps equally important, is destigmatising sex. At Kalamos, we believe talking about and owning your sexuality is one of the most powerful things you can do.
Young people need to know that who they love, the urges they feel, are nothing to be ashamed of. In this moment of reflection about the progress we've made, we must also recognize that we haven't gone far enough, and we're failing new generations.
We must empower a new sexually positive, proactive generation to defeat this awful disease. If you need to talk, send us an email.