HIV Testing and HIV treatment are the keys to ending the AIDS epidemic according to Dr. Trevor Hawkins, an HIV researcher who is attempting to raise further awareness about the disease. Hawkin’s is the lead physician at the Southwest CARE center and has been treating people with the virus for decades.
The clinic’s current research on therapy for patients has allowed them to increase the quality of life patients have after contracting HIV, so much so that people with HIV fly to Santa Fe just to meet with the doctor and his team.
Hawkin’s tells the Santa Fe New Mexican:
“As far as this epidemic goes the key is frank and open sex education, plus reminders in the media on a regular basis. And I think that an HIV test should be part of every medical visit, at least once a year.”
While Andrew Gans, director of the state’s HIV Prevention Office says the virus needs to be a top priority for testing facilities since many people are unaware they have the disease:
“Across the country, the federal government estimates that somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of the people who have HIV don’t know about it.”
Testing is key because researchers have found that those people who know they have the disease are unlikely to transmit it since they tend to change their risky behavior of unprotected sex.
Treatment is also key to help those with the disease live healthier lives thanks to new combinations of several antiretroviral medications that keep the virus from replicating, allowing HIV levels to remain almost undetectable.
Researchers also warn that while gay men and injection-drug users are still among the highest demographics to contract the disease, a study in 2009 found that almost a third of newly discovered cases did not involved either one of those groups.
The group asks that everyone, even if they don’t think they are at risk, get tested for the virus once a year, with early detection HIV treatment has a better chance of helping victims live a longer, healthier life.