If someone already has an STD, s/he has an increased chance of getting HIV over someone who is STD-free, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s because the behaviors that put someone at risk for an STD (not using condoms, multiple/anonymous partners) can elevate the risk for HIV. An STD-related sore or break in the skin also facilitates HIV entering the body.
This week, we report on a possible breakthrough in HIV research that may help researchers pinpoint elusive, infected cells. Thirty-three Philadelphians are going to participate in a $26-million study led by the Wistar Institute that could impact HIV research globally.
The question for HIV researchers these days is why the virus returns after therapy is stopped. The new study will look for clues to find those latent cells that roar back after therapy. If the cells could be pinpointed, it would allow medical professionals to go down and target a specific area, rather than the scorched-earth treatments that affect the entire body.
What all this means is that, while people with HIV live longer and better, it remains a deadly and unpredictable virus. Younger people who did not live through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s did not see the effect a rampant virus had on a generation. That does not make HIV/AIDS any less dangerous today. Hence the need for more and better information for the public, not only the risks but what it means to be diagnosed.
In a recent interview with PGN, Antar Bush, the education coordinator for the Department of Health in Philadelphia working on STD prevention, recounted a story while doing testing in a mobile clinic: “We were parked by one of the clubs trying to convince people to get tested. There was one young guy visiting from Ohio, he’d just come here to visit his friends and have a good time, and I really pressured him to get tested before he went into the club. He tested positive, and I felt so terrible having to give him the news. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I told him. He was only 21, and so young and carefree.”
Carefree no more. More education, more testing and more of a presence in the community are needed to stop HIV before it starts.