A Chat with Dr. Julie Graves, MPH, Ph.D., MD
Stigma is still the number one attribute to new HIV infections in the US. Although education and knowledge about HIV has increased, it’s ok to still have uncertainty and questions about HIV, PrEP, and other issues pertaining to your sexual health.
That’s why we sat down with Dr. Julie Graves, a medical provider based in Miami, Florida who works directly with Q Care Plus patients.
Q: So, Dr. Graves, as we break down myths about HIV, I must ask about one myth I hear about a lot. Is HIV as serious as it once was?
A: HIV infection no longer means death. Medications are very effective, and people with HIV live long lives. It’s now considered a chronic illness, like diabetes or hypertension. It needs daily medication, but if people take medications daily and get check-ups and lab tests as recommended, they have normal lifespans. Patients can even get bi-monthly injections for HIV instead of taking daily medications.
Q: Ok, good to know. Now, can HIV medication cure AIDS and is it a better option than prevention (like PrEP)?
A: Currently, there is no cure for AIDS. However, HIV prevention with PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a wonderful and highly effective tool in our fight to end the HIV epidemic. Yes, HIV medications are amazing and make a big difference for those people with HIV, but if everyone who needs PrEP takes it regularly, there would be a significant decrease in new cases of HIV, making it less likely that it’s being transmitted. Routine HIV testing and understanding one’s sexual health is the key to ending HIV.
HIV medication does not cure HIV, and it is intended to be taken before an HIV diagnosis. But it can help a patient become un-detectable. The U=U model, Un-Detectable equals Un-Transmittable, is really the standard and the hope. When a patient is un-detectable, that means that the amount of HIV virus in the person cannot be detected on a lab test, and it is impossible for the person to pass (or transmit) the HIV virus to another person.
For more information about U=U, please visit (U=U site).
Preventing an illness is always better than treating it. So, if you think you’re at risk of HIV, consider getting on preventative medication with Q Care Plus!
Q: Is HIV a “gay” disease?
A: No! Everyone can be at risk for HIV. HIV is transmitted through blood and body fluids – we include it as one of the “blood-borne pathogens.” Men and women, young children and older adults, gay and straight, sexually active and celibate – all can contract HIV. Transmission can happen during sex but also with exposure to blood or other body fluids.
Q: Now one I REALLY want to know: Is HIV and AIDS the same thing?
A: HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the white blood cells. So, if someone is HIV positive, they may not be able to ward off other illnesses efficiently.
HIV is the virus if left untreated can lead to an AIDS diagnosis. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome–it’s the illness that includes low immunity to infections such as pneumocystis pneumonia, CMV infection of the brain, Kaposi’s sarcoma of the skin, and tuberculosis. People can have HIV infection and never get AIDS, if they take their medications daily and get regular medical care. So, AIDS is essentially late-stage HIV.
Q: Finally: Do I still need to wear a condom if I am on PrEP?
A: PrEP prevents transmission of HIV infection. People who take PrEP and get exposed to HIV are protected from HIV infection but, PrEP only protects against HIV. There are other sexually transmitted infections – hepatitis B, hepatitis C, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, trichomonas, chancroid, herpes, and others – that we don’t have a preventive medication for.
So, continuing to use condoms and have safer sex practices is so important to reducing your exposure to STIs, even when taking PrEP. These sexually transmitted infections (STI) are getting more difficult to treat. They are developing resistance to antibiotics, and it’s important to avoid them by using condoms. Routine HIV and STI testing are recommended for all sexually active patients to identify and treat infections as quickly as possible.
Prevent HIV Today!
If you want to take your sexual health into your own hands, consider getting tested for HIV! Contact us at www.qcareplus.com by creating a profile! Our dedicated medical team will send a HIV and STI testing kit to your door in discreet packaging! You’ll also receive a consult from one of our specialized providers to discuss your sexual health and how to minimize your exposure. If prescribed, PrEP will be delivered to your door by one of our specialty pharmacy partners.