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Working on awareness for testing and prevention of HIV in teens

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 8:31 AM EDT
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One point one million people are living with the HIV virus right now. One in seven don’t even know they have it. There’s a call to action on June 27th, that’s National HIV testing day. Especially for young people between the ages of 13 and 24 in the LGBTQ community. Experts say it’s imperative they know early on whether they have it or not.

“I always knew I was gay,” shared an anonymous young man.

This young man asked not to be identified— his mother still doesn’t know he’s HIV positive.

“I was 17 when I was diagnosed,” the anonymous young man revealed.

“It kind of took me on a whirlwind because it’s like I don’t know anything about HIV and here I am, positive,” the anonymous young man explained.

Daniel and Andre see kids like this young man every day at the Bros in Convo initiative where young people in the LBGTQ community can go for support and free testing. Daniel and Andre have been living with HIV for more than 10 years.

“For myself, it was more so I immediately went into fight mode,” recalled Andre Nelson.

Now medications called PrEP, a daily pill that suppresses the virus in people who already have it can also be used by people most at risk of getting it.

“Some of those same antiretroviral drugs can be used for people who are not living with HIV to reduce the chance of acquiring HIV through sex,” elaborated Patrick Sullivan, Ph.D. of Emory University.

And investigators at Stanford University have shown a new type of vaccine that not only uses antibodies to kill the virus but also turns on an army of immune cells that target HIV, creating what could be a vaccine and a cure. But before any of this can work, you have to be tested.

“Almost half of young people, 13 to 24 who are living with HIV don’t know their status,” clarified Sullivan.

Testing, prevention, and hopefully soon, a cure.

“I’m my mother’s only child. It would break her heart if she had to bury me, especially for something that possibly could be prevented,” Nelson shared.

Another promising breakthrough, a second HIV patient in London underwent a successful stem cell transplant from donors with HIV-resistant genes. After 30 months, there was no trace of the virus in the patients’ blood. The CDC encourages everyone to be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, and yearly if you are part of the LGBTQ community.

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