While there is still no cure for HIV infections, increased access to HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care has made it a manageable chronic health condition. With the appropriate care, people living with HIV can now live long and healthy lives.
The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) is proud to support the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. GCHD’s Sexual Health and Family Planning programs play a key role in the prevention, diagnosis and management of HIV in Genesee County. These programs provide services both at the primary clinic located in Burton, MI and throughout the community at various outreach locations. Services include HIV testing and counseling, HIV treatment referrals, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, PrEP for HIV, several birth control options, pregnancy testing and other sexual and reproductive health services.
In 2019, there were 588 people living with HIV and 32 new HIV diagnoses in Genesee County.
By law, new HIV infections are required to be reported to the local health department within 24 hours of diagnosis. This timely reporting is key to starting newly-diagnosed individuals on treatment and preventing potential transmission to their partners. Early treatment greatly improves health outcomes for the newly-diagnosed and reduces the risk of HIV transmission to others. When GCHD receives an HIV infection report, specially trained staff quickly begin the process of contacting the individual to provide support, risk reduction information, and referral to treatment and care services. This evidenced based process is known as Partner Services, which is voluntary
A person living with HIV who takes medication as prescribed, can obtain an undetectable viral load in six months or less. An undetectable viral load means there are no detectable copies of the HIV virus in the body. Persons with an undetectable viral load can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner via sex. About 80% of HIV infections that occur each year are transmitted by people who are not receiving HIV care.
Since the mid-1980s,HIV infections have declined dramatically, but progress in reducing new HIV infections has slowed in recent years. The new diagnosis rate of HIV in Genesee County has significantly increased by 4.8% per year from 2010-2019. This increase is not solely driven by Flint, as new diagnoses appear to be increasing throughout Genesee County. In 2019, there were 588 people living with HIV and 32 new HIV diagnoses in Genesee County.
To aid in reversing this trend, GCHD has implemented new prevention-based services in recent years, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is offered to individuals who are at increased risk of acquiring HIV. When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV and reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%. For those who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken daily. As PrEP only protects against HIV, condoms are important for the protection against other STIs. GCHD’s Wear One Condom Campaign was first implemented in December 2017. Wear One is a program that began in Ottawa County to increase access to free condoms and ultimately decrease STIs, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies. GCHD prepares discreet Wear One packages, which contain a variety of condoms, lubricant and safe sex information. The packages are then delivered to various partner organizations throughout Genesee County where individuals can access them for free. Since the campaign began in Genesee County, GCHD has distributed more than 180,000 condoms.
For more information on HIV testing, prevention, treatment, and stigma, visit cdc.gov/stophivtogether.
To learn more about GCHD’s Sexual Health and Family Planning services, visit gchd.us/wegetit.
To learn more GCHD’s Wear One Campaign, visit gchd.us/wear-one-campaign.
National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is September 18th
Brad Snyder, MPH Public Health Supervisor, Family Planning, STI & HIV Programs