Whitman-Walker Health's Max Robinson Center in historic Anacostia in southeast D.C. (Courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)
Whitman-Walker Health's Max Robinson Center in historic Anacostia in southeast D.C. (Courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)

Dec. 1 marked the annual, international recognition of World AIDS Day – a day dedicated to remembering loved ones lost to HIV/AIDS, and to uplifting their names and memories. It also comes during the 40th anniversary of the first CDC report identifying what would later be known as HIV/AIDS.

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “End inequalities. End AIDS.” To end inequalities in HIV, we must increase education about what HIV testing, treatment and prevention look like. Today in 2021, HIV is a manageable chronic disease and is more preventable than ever before! From getting tested and knowing your status, to preventative options like PrEP and PEP, here are a few options to consider adding to your HIV prevention toolkit!

Get Tested. Getting tested for HIV and STIs is the first step in anyone’s HIV prevention journey. Depending on a person’s sexual health practices and activity, getting tested every 3-6 months can go a long way in preventing HIV and STIs. Untreated STIs make it easier to become positive after an exposure to HIV, so it is important to get tested.

Whitman-Walker Health’s mobile HIV/STI testing van parked during a community outreach event (Courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)

Learn about Whitman-Walker Health’s testing hours and locations at www.whitman-walker.org/testing. HIV and STI testing are available by appointment at the below locations. Call 202.797.4439 to schedule a testing appointment and be sure to check our website for the most up-to-date hours!

Max Robinson Center, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE

Whitman-Walker Health at 1525 14th Street NW

If you receive a negative HIV test result, ask about PrEP. PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily pill that can prevent HIV. According to the CDC, when taken every day, this pill can prevent a person’s chance of HIV infection that is transmitted through sex by about 99 percent and can prevent HIV that is transmitted through injection drug use by about 74 percent. Learn more about PrEP and decide if it’s the right HIV prevention tool for you! Contact Whitman-Walker’s PrEP team at 202.939.7690 or prepclinic@whitman-walker.org.

Living in the DMV? Access PrEP in DC and find a service location near you. Visit www.marylandhealthconnection.gov. Finally, Virginia residents can access PrEP by visiting www.vdh.virginia.gov.

PrEP may be a good HIV prevention tool for you if you:

– Have been diagnosed with an STI in the last 6 months.

– Are sexually active and don’t always use external or insertive condoms.

– Are unsure of your sex partner’s HIV status.

– Are HIV-negative and are sexually active, or have a sex partner who is living with HIV.

– Identify as someone who injects drugs or are having sex with partner(s) who inject drugs.

If you are HIV-negative and think you have been exposed to HIV, ask for PEP. PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is a 28-day course of medication that can prevent HIV after a possible exposure. PEP is most effective when started within 72 hours of an HIV exposure. PEP is for emergency use and is available at Whitman-Walker. To access PEP with Whitman-Walker, call our PEP line at 202.797.4439 for support through our Logan Circle or Anacostia health centers. PEP is also available at all emergency rooms. Whether exposed to HIV through consensual or non-consensual sex, or sharing needles and works, it is important to seek PEP within 72 hours of exposure to HIV for it to be effective at preventing HIV.

DC residents can access PEP by visiting www.sexualbeing.org. Maryland residents can access PEP by visiting www.marylandhealthconnection.gov. Virginia residents can access PEP by visiting www.vdh.virginia.gov.

If you receive a positive HIV test result or are living with HIV, start treatment for HIV. Talk with your medical provider about your treatment options. When a person is living with HIV, they can manage their HIV by taking their HIV treatment as prescribed. By being on treatment, you decrease the risk of passing HIV on to someone else. This is known as “Treatment as Prevention.”

Whitman-Walker’s Community Health team conducting outdoor HIV/STI testing at Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center during summer 2020 of the COVID-19 pandemic in historic Anacostia in southeast Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)

People living with HIV who take their treatment as prescribed can achieve an undetectable viral load. An undetectable viral load means there is effectively no risk of a person transmitting HIV sexually to another person. This is known as “U Equals U” or Undetectable = Untransmittable. Missing treatment puts a person at risk of regaining a detectable viral load, so it is important to take HIV treatment as prescribed.

Start treatment. To start treatment, call Whitman-Walker at 202.797.4437 and say “Red Carpet” to our team member. They will support you in getting an appointment at either Whitman-Walker’s Logan Circle or Anacostia health centers. You can also call us at 202.745.7000 or email us at appointments@whitman-walker.org to schedule an appointment. Just mention “Red Carpet” and our team can help a person start treatment for HIV.

If your community or organization is interested in the Whitman-Walker providing mobile health services in your neighborhood, contact kjcontreras@whitman-walker.org! Access PrEP, PEP or start treatment for HIV with Whitman-Walker Health at Max Robinson Center, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE or Whitman-Walker at 1525 14th Street NW.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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1 Comment

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