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The Science Behind Prevention IS Care

Highlights from the MMWR: Incorporating HIV Prevention into the Medical Care of Persons Living with HIV:

  • Despite major advances in treatment, an estimated 40,000 new cases of HIV infection occur each year in the United States*.
  • Interviews with people living with HIV in a variety of settings indicate that more than 70% are sexually active after receiving their diagnosis—and many have not notified their partner of their HIV status.
  • STDs have been increasing in men and women with HIV who are receiving outpatient care, indicating ongoing risky behavior and opportunities for HIV transmission.
  • Until recently, HIV prevention in this country has largely focused on preventing infection in those who do not have the virus. Since infection rates have remained steady for the past decade, the focus is shifting to prevention of transmission by those living with HIV.

Whenever a patient with HIV visits, health care providers have the opportunity to:

  • Screen for transmission behaviors. Reverting to risky sexual behavior might be as important in HIV transmission as failure to adopt safer practices after diagnosis.
  • Identify and treat STDs. STDs have a synergistic effect on HIV infectivity and susceptibility, and their presence indicates risky behavior.
  • Communicate prevention messages. Patients with HIV can benefit from brief messages on the need for safer sexual behaviors to protect themselves and their partners.
  • Discuss sexual and drug-use behavior. Patients need accurate information on factors that increase the risk of HIV transmission and promote effective prevention strategies.
  • Reinforce changes to safer behavior. Brief prevention messages can positively reinforce patient actions to reduce transmission risk.
  • Refer to specialized services. Direct patients needing additional behavior interventions to social services (i.e., mental health services, substance abuse care, etc.), which are available from the CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN) or 1-800-458-5231.
  • Facilitate partner notification, counseling, and testing. Health care providers can help prevent patients' sexual or needle-sharing partners from becoming infected with HIV and from infecting others with HIV.