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Why I Believe Rapid HIV Testing Is Vital

Hey there Guys. Today I was struck by two news articles that really resonated with me and why I believe that rapid HIV testing is so important.

First was an article from The Detroit News that really broke my heart. A young gay 14 year old teen came out to his mother and confessed that he had been having unprotected sex.

She came through the door with her 14-year-old son during the holiday season. In the previous days, he’d opened up to her, coming out as gay and sharing the fact he had a boyfriend.

When he said he’d been having unprotected sex, she acted quickly, calling a hotline for AIDS Partnership Michigan and bringing him to the agency’s office on Jefferson Avenue for  rapid HIV testing. With a prick of the finger and a few minutes of waiting, mother and son had their answer.

Not the answer they’d hoped for, but knowing is far better than not knowing.

I have to be honest, while I well and truly knew I was gay at the age of 14, I can’t imagine having had a boy friend let alone being sexually active.

To hear that a 14 year young man is living with HIV is tragic. The fact his mother is supportive is wonderful, he is one amazingly lucky lad.

For some young people who believe that HIV is an “old guy disease” this may be an eye opener. I can’t think of of many 14 year olds who are even thinking about HIV.

The good news is that thanks to his mother’s knowledge about getting rapid HIV testing he knows of his infection. He will be able to start treatment. Early treatment that can help prevent the gradual damage of the immune system.

From People’s Daily research shows that early treatments of HIV, within 4 months of infection, offers the best opportunity to protect the immune system from progressive damage.

Patients who start on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV-1 infection within four months of estimated infection date demonstrate a stronger recovery of CD4+ T-cell counts than patients whose therapy starts later, a new U.S. study showed.

The study, published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, is co-authored by physicians of University of Texas and University of California, San Diego. It drew data from 468 patients followed in the San Diego Primary Infection Cohort.

In the four months after HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus type 1) infection, the immune system mounts an immune response toward a temporary restoration of CD4+ T-cell counts. After this transient increase, the CD4+ count progressively declines. CD4+ T- cells are specialized immune cells that are required to fight infections and are depleted during HIV infection.

Recovery of CD4+ T-cell counts to approximately normal levels of 900 or more cells per cubic milliliter was observed in 64 percent of participants who were put on antiretroviral therapy within four months of the estimated date of infection, compared to 34 percent of participants for whom the ART was initiated later.

The cliff notes are clear. Early diagnosis and treatment can help increase the protection of the immune system. No matter your age.

By having more ways to access testing, in particular rapid HIV testing we help more people. With testing outside of the standard clinical setting there is the opportunity to meet the people where they are at. Away from the cold clinical environment of the doctors office.

What are your thoughts?

Yours in good health.

Dr George

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