Better to Know

By: Alana Adams
By: Alana Adams

Almost one-million people in the U.S. are infected with HIV, but a national effort is trying to prevent any more from getting infected.

In Bay County, there are about 400 to 600 people who are infected with HIV/AIDS.

National HIV Testing Day is geared to encourage people that it's better to know.

At BASIC of Northwest Florida, Frank Dean, the executive director says anyone can get tested anonymously.

"They will be counseled one on one, just the individual and the counselor. There's no one ever allowed in the room with them."

It's estimated that about half of those infected in Bay County don't even know.

According to the Centers for Disease Control African Americans are at the highest risk, making up more than half of all new HIV infections each year.

Dean says black women are the target of a new local program, funded by the CDC.

"The program is called Sister to Sister and it’s five two-hour sessions of working with the women in a very small group settings. Being very frank and honest about the disease, how it's transmitted, how they can protect themselves."

Dean says it's all about protecting yourself and those you love. And that's why it's ok to get tested.

BASIC offers testing during selected hours during the week.

For more information call BASIC at 785-1088. The Bay County Health Department also offers HIV/AIDS testing Monday through Friday.

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A few facts about AIDS and HIV

  • AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is a condition believed to be caused by a virus called HIV.

  • This virus attacks the immune system.

  • When the immune system breaks down, you lose this protection and can develop many serious, often deadly infections and cancers.

  • AIDS is the condition that lets opportunistic infections take hold, and those infections cause death.

How is HIV and AIDS transmitted

  • HIV is spread most commonly by having unprotected sex with an infected partner. The virus can enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth during sex.

  • HIV also is spread through contact with infected blood. Today, because of blood screening and heat treatment, the risk of getting HIV from such transfusions is extremely small.

  • HIV frequently is spread among injection drug users by the sharing of needles or syringes contaminated with very small quantities of blood from someone infected with the virus.

  • Women can transmit HIV to their babies during pregnancy or birth. Approximately one-quarter to one-third of all untreated pregnant women infected with HIV will pass the infection to their babies.

Early symptoms of HIV infection

  • Many people do not have any symptoms when they first become infected with HIV.

  • Some people, however, have a flu-like illness within a month or two after exposure to the virus. This illness may include fever, headache, tiredness, and enlarged lymph nodes (glands of the immune system easily felt in the neck and groin).

  • These symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken for those of another viral infection, although, during this period, people are very infectious, and HIV is present in large quantities in genital fluids.

  • More persistent or severe symptoms may not surface for a decade or more after HIV first enters the body in adults, or within two years in children born with HIV infection.

  • As the immune system deteriorates, a variety of complications start to take over. For many people, their first sign of infection is large lymph nodes or "swollen glands" that may be enlarged for more than three months.

  • Other symptoms often experienced months to years before the onset of AIDS include:
    • lack of energy
    • weight loss
    • frequent fevers and sweats
    • persistent or frequent yeast infections (oral or vaginal)
    • persistent skin rashes or flaky skin
    • pelvic inflammatory disease in women that does not respond to treatment
    • short-term memory loss

  • Some people develop frequent and severe herpes infections that cause mouth, genital, or anal sores, or a painful nerve disease called shingles. Children may grow slowly or be sick a lot.

    What is AIDS?

    • The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. CDC developed official criteria for the definition of AIDS and is responsible for tracking the spread of AIDS in the United States.

    • CDC's definition of AIDS includes all HIV-infected people who have fewer than 200 CD4+ T cells per cubic millimeter of blood. (Healthy adults usually have CD4+ T-cell counts of 1,000 or more.)

    • In addition, the definition includes 26 clinical conditions that affect people with advanced HIV disease.

    • Most of these conditions are opportunistic infections that generally do not affect healthy people.

    • In people with AIDS, these infections are often severe and sometimes fatal because the immune system is so ravaged by HIV that the body cannot fight off certain bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other microbes.

    Source: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/hivinf.htm (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Fact Sheet)


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