JOLIET – Two representatives from the Will County Health Department’s Family Health Services Division make it very clear that the ultimate goal of HIV testings and treatment is to have no active HIV infections, and that primary care physicians can play a major role in reaching that goal.
“Arizona began a program called Getting to Zero, with the goal of having no active cases by 2020,” Health Department Program Manager Lyyti Dudczyk said in a news release. “Illinois has now picked up the program, with the goal of eliminating all active cases by 2026.”
Health Department Public Health Promotion Specialist Kendra Coleman says the goal of Getting to Zero requires both prevention and treatment.
“If someone tests positive for HIV, proper treatment and medication can reduce their HIV to the ‘undetectable state,’ where it is not picked up by an HIV test and not transmittable. Then, their testing continues on a regular basis." Coleman said in a news release.
Dudczyk said that although much has been learned since the pivotal moment of basketball star Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis in 1991, things could still be a lot better.
“Sure, the actual number of new cases may be down; but considering what we know now about prevention and medication, it is still very frustrating," she said in a news release.
While some potential HIV patients may still avoid testing based upon discomfort due to possible “negative stigma” or “shame from family members,” both Coleman and Dudczyk say that one place discomfort should not lead to a boulder in the path of HIV testing is your primary care physician’s office.
“Doctors have the standard questions they ask, such as ‘Do you feel safe at home,’” Dudczyk said in a news release. “But how many times during a routine check-up do they ask about a person’s sexual history? HIV tests should be given on a regular basis, just like a blood pressure test or perhaps an A1C test for a diabetic.”
“It used to be that a doctor had to provide a separate consent form for their patients to have an HIV test," she said in a news release, "That’s not required anymore. Signing the regular consent form now covers HIV tests. We are trying to get to that “zero” mark, but doctors don’t always want to prescribe what is needed for prevention. That’s why doctors need to get comfortable with asking about sexual history.”
For more information on HIV and testing, visit www.willcountyhealth.org and click on the Family Health Services page. Or visit the Illinois Department of Public Health at www.idph.state.il.us, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.