In a time when HIV-related information, research, and prevention strategies are more widespread than ever, rates of new infections remain stubbornly stable. The most important tool is knowledge, both about preventing HIV, and, for those infected, keeping as up-to-date as possible about new meds and methods of treatment.
Despite prevalent stereotypes about who is susceptible to HIV, experts recommend that everyone who is sexually active maintain an awareness of their status.
“We hear a lot about gay men and IV drug users, but if a woman comes through my door with five kids, and she’s been married 30 years, I’ll ask ’Why don’t you go ahead and get tested?’” said Dr. Frank Spinelli, a member of the Board of Directors of New York City’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis. “Everyone should get tested. I’m adamant about this.”
Although Dr. Michael Horberg, a Northern California physician and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, recommends that everyone should get tested for HIV at least once. “If you’re at risk because of certain behaviors, such as having multiple sexual partners or sharing needles,” he added, “you’ll need to be tested more regularly if those behaviors don’t change.”
“It’s a disease that exists in the world, and it’s not going away,” Spinelli emphasized. “A significant portion of the population doesn’t even know what their status is.
“There’s no good reason not to get tested,” added Spinelli, who recommends an HIV test at least every six months, depending on sexual activity: “If you’re having more or more risky sex than average, I’d suggest getting tested more frequently.”