The Beginning of the End for HIV

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Free HIV/STD testing from AIDS Foundation Houston offers a real end to the epidemic.

A man holding a sign that says Rainbow Rollers

Fundraising for AIDS Foundation Houston

We can only make history if we learn from our past and focus on ending the AIDS epidemic.

By the time of Ken Horne’s death in 1981, an unknown virus had spread its way through the male gay community and “unprotected sex” had become a risky reality. A myth had emerged that the HIV disease only infected gay men; and the world watched in fear as the 1980s emerged as the biggest public health scare in history.

One year later, scientists were still trying to pinpoint the cause. New reports indicated HIV had originated in Haiti, and it continued to spread like wildfires in Europe and Uganda. People were dying from AIDS, wasting away, and no one knew how to stop it. A haunting photograph was published in LIFE magazine in 1990 of a sick young man, David Kirby, that shook the core of its readers. His thin body had been tormented by AIDS, his eyes were staring off into an oblivion and his family held tightly to his skeletal hands. We were no closer to answers, vaccines or cures. In 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO), publicly stated that AIDS had claimed 35 million lives.

Fast forward to 2021. Today we are still combating that very epidemic. Organizations like AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc. (AFH) are leading the way in the fight to educate, prevent HIV and provide access to care and treatments. Antiretroviral therapy gives people living with HIV hope since they can live healthy lives — as long as they take their medications every day. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is an HIV prevention prescription for people who don’t have HIV that helps reduce their risk of getting HIV if exposed to the virus. PrEP offers up to 99 percent reduced risk for HIV infection. And now, patients successfully being treated for HIV are also extremely unlikely to transmit the virus to others. When people maintain an undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in the bloodstream), the virus cannot be sexually transmitted. Advocates and researchers call this “U=U,” meaning when HIV is undetectable, it is not transmittable.

On a mission to help eliminate the stigma behind HIV/AIDS and STDs, AIDS Foundation Houston encourages everyone to get tested and know their status. A staggering six out of ten (63.0%) adult residents living in Houston/Harris County alone have never been tested for HIV.

“We are focused on preventative programs, such as Mistr, that offer free online access to PrEP,” said Derrick Brown, Chief Development Officer at AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc.
“And we launched a ‘Let’s Make History’ HIV/STD testing campaign this year to highlight free testing, PrEP programs and linkage to care for our community.”

AIDS Foundation Houston provides free HIV/STD testing at their office, currently by appointment only by calling (832) AFH-PrEP. Testing and treatments, like PrEP, have shown significant progress in the fight to end the HIV epidemic. Celebrities Todrick Hall (RuPaul’s Drag Race) and Shangela (Lovecraft Country, HBO) appeared on the virtual World AIDS Day event on December 1, 2020 to help raise awareness about HIV, remember the community members and loved ones we have lost to AIDS, and hope for a better future by ending the epidemic. Houston ranks 11th in the nation for new HIV transmissions, meaning the AIDS Foundation Houston still has a lot of work to do and encourages the community to play safe.

“We can only make history if we learn from our past and focus on ending the AIDS epidemic in our future,” said Brown. “We can accomplish the end of HIV in Houston and across the nation by 2030 if we work together.”

About AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH)
Founded in 1982, AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc. (AFH) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and the first AIDS Service Organization in Texas. It remains a national leader in HIV/STD programming with the goal of creating a community where HIV is stigma-free and rare, and people have equitable access to care. AFH works towards the mission of ending the HIV epidemic in the Houston area and provides services that include prevention education, HIV/STI testing, outreach in Texas prisons, PrEP care, supportive housing, food assistance, a summer camp for children, and supportive services to persons affected by HIV/AIDS.

Free HIV/STD Testing
HIV testing is free of charge and available on-site by appointment only from 10am-5pm Monday – Thursday. Please call 832-436-3798 or 832-AFH-PrEP to make an appointment or to request information about HIV/STI testing or PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). #GetTested and know your status.

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Heather J. Taylor
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