As we approach National HIV Testing Day, I thought I'd post some local facts about HIV. From the Erase Doubt website:
- Just over half of all new sexually transmitted HIV infections are spread by people who have it and don’t know it
- 7 out of 10 people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County are gay or bisexual men
- African-Americans make up 9.8% of Los Angeles County’s population, but account for 22% of living HIV/AIDS cases
- Latinos make up the largest number of people living with AIDS of any racial and ethnic group in Los Angeles County
- 70% of women living with AIDS in Los Angeles County got HIV through heterosexual contact
- You are up to 5 times more likely to get HIV if you already have an STD
These numbers are for LA County, and for all the people living with HIV. We know that over time, HIV rapidly grows in one risk group then levels off, so over time the profile of newly infected people change. One significant change is the decrease in new HIV diagnoses among injection drug users. Bleaching one's works or not sharing needles doesn't effect the high in any way, so there are few drawbacks to using clean needles. Also, needles are available now without a perscription, so their as easy to access as the local Walgreen's.
Here in Long Beach, about half the people who test positive have used crystal meth.
Closer to 8 out of 10 new infections are among gay and bi men.
Like Los Angeles, more than half of those recently infected got their HIV from someone who tested negative at their last test. There are about 1500 people in Long Beach who have HIV and don't know it, either because they've never tested or because they were infected since their last test. Those who were recently infected can have extremely high levels of HIV, and are much more likely to transmit the virus. Because HIV infects a particular type of white blood cell, those with an STD will have much higher levels of white blood cells as their body tries to fight off the infection. That would also make it more likely for them to transmit HIV if they have it--or become infected if they don't.
Comparing two different data sets, like 2010 census data with the numbers who test positive can be statistically problematic. We know that testing is more common among the sexually active, not spread evenly among the general population. Here in Long Beach percentages are relatively similar between the two data sets among Whites and Latinos. White make up 46% of the city and 44% if those who test positive. Hispanics comprise 33% of the population and make up 28% of positive results. In the Black and Asian communities we see greater discrepancies, with African Americans making up 13% of the population and 22% of HIV-positive results. Asian/Pacific Islanders make up 14% of Long Beach and 4% of those who test positive. My guess is that at leas part of that may be attributable to lower testing numbers, and cultural differences in accessing community health services and public testing sites.
As a reminder, free confidential HIV testing is available at the CARE Program by appointment or walk in five days a week. We're right across the street from the Metro Blue Line Anaheim Station at 411 East Tenth Street, Suite 107, Long Beach, CA 90813.