News Releases

June 26, 2015

Health Department Advises Vermonters to Get Tested for HIV

National HIV Testing Day is June 27

The Vermont Department of Health reminds Vermonters to get tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV infection can go unnoticed, with few obvious symptoms for about eleven years. June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 14 percent of people living with HIV in the U.S. don't know it.

Testing is a first step on what the CDC calls the "The HIV Care Continuum," a model that outlines steps that people with HIV go through from initial diagnosis, to engagement in medical care, to achieving a goal of viral suppression (a low level of HIV in the blood). Viral suppression is achievable when people with HIV stay in medical care and adhere to their treatment.

"Many people living with HIV who are engaged in care live long and healthy lives," said Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist for infectious disease. "When their viral levels are undetectable, they are less likely to pass HIV to their sexual or needle-sharing partners."

It is estimated that of the 86 percent of Americans who know of their infection, only about 40 percent are engaged in medical care with 30 percent virally suppressed who know of their infection. The CDC is working with state health departments to increase the proportion of people living with HIV who are able to stay engaged in HIV medical care and adhere to their treatment so that they can achieve viral load suppression.

According to data released by the Health Department, 58 percent of Vermont residents known to be living with HIV have achieved viral suppression. (http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/aids/documents/annual_report.pdf )

"For the subset of Vermonters with HIV who visited their doctor at least once in 2014, the outcomes are even better, with 75 percent showing evidence of viral suppression," said Kelso. "They are reaping the benefits of HIV treatment because they first got tested and then stayed engaged in care."

The Health Department encourages Vermonters to ask their medical provider for an HIV test. Individuals at high risk, who may not be comfortable asking their provider for a test, may choose to visit one of about 25 testing locations sponsored by the Health Department statewide. These sites provide free and anonymous testing services. The Health Department network sites offer oral fluid or finger-stick blood testing, HIV risk reduction counseling and links to support or care services as needed.

HIV is spread primarily through unprotected sex and sharing injection equipment. Consistent and correct use of condoms can greatly reduce the risk of sexual transmission. Never sharing syringes prevents transmission of the virus. A mother with HIV can pass the virus to her baby, although early diagnosis and medical care can greatly reduce this risk. The Health Department recommends that all pregnant women seek prenatal care and ask their medical provider for an HIV test.

For more information, go to www.11years.org (exit VDH) or call the Health Department's toll-free AIDS Hotline at 800-882-2437 weekdays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Media Contact: Communication Office, 802-863-7281

Source: Department of Health
Last Updated at: June 26, 2015 14:17:11