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Opinion: HIV…..Truth or Dare?

This news story was published on June 18, 2014.
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By: Betty Krones, Disease Prevention Specialist –

As children growing up, I think we have all played the game “Truth or Dare.” Someone would ask a question that you may feel uncomfortable answering and you could either opt to answer the question or take the “dare”, which was usually some type of activity that would make you equally uncomfortable.  As adults, this game has lost its appeal, which is unfortunate because sometimes we need to be challenged and face things outside of our comfort zone.

One topic that often puts adults out of their comfort zone is the topic of sexual health. However, this is a very important topic—potentially the difference between life and death, yet we often are not daring enough to ask the important questions. This is apparent by looking at Iowa’s most recent HIV statistics.  In 2013, HIV diagnoses increased to 122 new cases, which is five more than the previous year.  If this trend continues, we will soon surpass our record number of cases (126 in 2009). Iowans between the ages of 25 to 44 years of age accounted for 44% of the new diagnoses. However, Iowans who are age 45 and older reached an all-time high of 50 new diagnoses in 2013.

What I find even more concerning is the fact that over 45% of persons diagnosed in 2013 were considered to be late testers (persons whose infection has moved on to the criteria for AIDS within 12 months of their initial HIV diagnosis). Late testers have generally been infected for many years and during that time could have infected many others unknowingly. Typically late testers have more viral particles in their system than someone who is being treated successfully for HIV.  A higher viral load makes it easier to pass the virus to others.

National HIV Testing Day is Friday, June 27, 2014. This is a good time to challenge my fellow Iowans to a little game of HIV Truth or Dare.  Can you answer the questions truthfully and are you daring enough to take action to prevent HIV?  Take the test, I dare you!

Do you believe that if you are heterosexual and do not use IV drugs, you do not have to worry about getting HIV?

  • Although most men do become HIV-positive through sexual contact with other men or through injection drug use, about 16% of men and 78% of women become HIV-positive through heterosexual contact.

Dare to talk to your partner about using condoms.

  • Evidence shows that male latex condoms have an 80% or greater protection rate against the sexual transmission of HIV and other STIs when used correctly and consistently.
  • Ideally, you should talk to your partner about condoms before you begin engaging in a sexual relationship. Be open and honest about your expectations so that when the moment arises, your partner knows how you feel about condom use.

Have you talked to your partner about his or her HIV status?

  • Conversations about sexual health are important, but can be awkward at first. Try to approach the subject with confidence and avoid making your partner feel they are being judged.
  • Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to start talking about HIV. Finding out your partner’s HIV status after you’ve already had sex is risky.
  • Don’t force the conversation. Find the right time and place to talk.

Dare to make an appointment for HIV testing.

  • HIV testing is available by calling the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health at 641-421-9320.
  • The HIV test is a simple finger-stick and results are available in 15 minutes.
  • Testing is free for qualifying individuals and only $25 for those who do not qualify.

Truthfully, as adults we need to be responsible for our health and well-being. Be daring enough to ask the tough questions.  Are you up for the challenge?

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