HIV is a preventable disease that has captured the world’s attention. In response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness has established an HIV prevention program consisting of three components:
- Community education focusing on prevention
- Targeted prevention education for those practicing high risk behaviors
- Patient services including confidential and anonymous testing, and counseling
HIV Prevention Services staff offer prevention case management services and workshops about reducing the risk of HIV transmission. The department includes special emphasis programs for injection drug users, sex trade workers, African Americans, Hispanics and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The department also conducts field and Internet outreach, as well as distributing free condoms and other safer sex supplies to residents throughout the area. The department also provides HIV testing at various locations throughout the community, at the Kentuckiana Pride Festival and during the annual National HIV Testing Day and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day campaigns. We also help organize the Louisville AIDS Walk, local events to commemorate World AIDS Day and the Kentucky HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Conference each year.
HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is only transmitted by blood, semen (including pre-ejaculate), vaginal secretions or breast milk. One of those four bodily fluids from someone who is HIV positive must enter your blood stream for you to become infected. The safest way to protect yourself is to practice abstinence and not sharing needles if you inject. Putting a barrier (such as a condom, glove or dental dam) between you and your sexual partner’s bodily fluids (those mentioned above) can reduce your risk for becoming infected. Other prevention strategies you might consider which may help reduce your risk include educating yourself about HIV/AIDS and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), getting tested for HIV and other STDs, encouraging your sexual partner(s) to get tested as well, and being prepared by having prevention supplies readily accessible.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a result of HIV infection. By the time people with HIV develop AIDS, the virus has damaged their immune systems. They then develop diseases that most healthy people can normally resist or control called opportunistic infections; such as certain pneumonias, thrush, or recurrences of childhood infections. They may also suffer from cancers rarely found among people with healthy bodily defenses. A person is diagnosed with AIDS (a clinical diagnosis and the end stage of HIV disease) when they develop an opportunistic infection or their T-Cell Count falls below 200.
When the virus enters your body, your immune system responds by developing HIV antibodies to fight off the foreign virus in your system. It takes your body a period of time from when you are exposed to when your immune system has developed enough antibodies to test positive on an HIV test. It can take up to three months to develop enough antibodies to test positive.
HIV attacks your immune system. With HIV, early detection is key. The longer HIV wears down your immune system the more difficult it becomes for you to remain healthy. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that 1 in 5 Americans who are living with HIV are unaware of their status. You could be living with HIV and possibly transmitting it to others and not know it. The only way to know if you’re infected with HIV is to get tested. HIV counseling and testing is provided by the LMPHW's Specialty Clinic for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). The Specialty Clinic also diagnoses, treats and educates patients with gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and other STDs. For additional information and to learn more, call us at (502) 574-5600 or visit the links listed on the right. Please note that CDC has also trained counselors available 24 hours a day to answer questions by HIV/AIDS/STD questions by phone at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).
As a component of their HIV prevention strategy, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness has established a methadone maintenance clinic to reach opiate addicted intravenous drug users. The LMPHW is the only health department in the state funded by the state’s Division of Substance Abuse for the treatment of opiate addiction.
"Speaking up about AIDS is a point of pride, not a source of shame. There must be no more sticking heads in the sand, no more embarrassment, and no more hiding behind a veil of apathy." -Nelson Mandela