Is Getting HIV Inevitable?

A series of HIV/AIDS Awareness ribbonsOver 230,000 African Americans have died of AIDS – nearly 40 percent of total deaths – and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States of America today, almost half are black.

And yet, as a racial group, African Americans represent just 13 percent of the US population.

The estimated lifetime risk of becoming infected with HIV is 1 in 16 for black males, and 1 in 30 for black females. As such,I’ve had many patients as me whether or  not it’s inevitable that, regardless of the degree of protection taken, the HIV infection will be spread from one person to another in the Black community?

One topic that I bring up frequently is the fact that people are living much longer lives with HIV/AIDS. We have quite a few patients in their 70s and even some in their 80s who are doing quite well – who are engaged in regular relationships, with all the intimacy and emotional fulfillment that typical relationships have.

This said, it is not inevitable that HIV infection will be spread to an uninfected partner. In fact, there are growing numbers of individuals who are living with an HIV-infected partner who remain un-infected for many years. So, what do people need to do to insure they protect their partner?

Two things have the biggest impact.

1. First and foremost (you already know the answer), condoms are very effective in protecting against infection. They really do work when used correctly.

2. The second part of the equation is also important – the infected partner should be on an effective HIV regimen. In the last few months, I have attended a couple of major HIV research conferences. One of the most exciting findings is that HIV treatment is also excellent prevention.

In general, if a person takes the necessary steps to keep themselves informed and protected, and makes no excuses when it comes to their health, the spread of the HIV virus CAN be controlled.