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State’s new bid to eliminate HIV infections — and stigmas

Oregon Health Authority launches new HIV campaign initiative

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ ) -- Dec. 1 is recognized as World AIDS Day, and to mark the event, the Oregon Health Authority said Monday it has partnered with End HIV Oregon to launch a new campaign: "Undetectable equals Untransmittable."

It's part of a prevention campaign to end new HIV infections in Oregon, while also breaking down the stigma surrounding those who contracted the disease.

Timothy Menza, medical director for OHA, explained the concept of Undetectable equals Untransmittable.

"For a person taking HIV medication, who achieves an undetectable viral load means the typical tests for looking for virus in a person's blood actually can't detect it," Menza said. "So it's undetectable, because the level is so low. If a person achieved that level being so low for six months or more, they cannot transmit HIV to a sexual partner."

The Deschutes County Health Department reports there are about 7,200 people in Oregon, with varying ages and from all walks of life, that are living with HIV.

There are also about 1,100 Oregonians who have HIV but don't know it yet.

Menza said overall, the HIV rates in the state have been stable, with an exception of some groups.

"There have been changes, if you look at particular sub-populations or groups," Menza said. "The one thing that we are noticing is that in Oregon, the number of people who inject drugs appears to be increasing over the past several years. For other populations, the trends seem to be decreasing or stable."

Tyler TreMeer, chief executive officer for the Cascades AIDS Project, said the larger issue of HIV-positive individuals not being able to receive care is due to social injustices.

"What we still need to work on is that there are several populations that are disproportionately impacted by the virus," TreMeer said. "Communities of color, the transgender community, communities that have a history of medical mistrust or a history of discrimination in their health care continue to have a fear around accessing services."

The Cascade AIDS Project helps displaced individuals receive housing, in addition to health care services.

Here's OHA's news release announcing the effort:

OHA endorses campaign to eliminate new HIV infections, stigma

U=U initiative emphasizes importance of treatment in reducing transmission

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon Health Authority is honoring World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) by partnering with a national HIV education campaign promoting a new initiative known as U=U, or "Undetectable equals Untransmittable."

OHA’s endorsement of Prevention Access Campaign’s U=U effort is part of the End HIV Oregon initiative, launched in December 2016, to end new HIV infections in Oregon and eliminate stigma for those living with the disease. The initiative's 2019 Progress Report is available on the End HIV Oregon website.

"We have the tools to end HIV in Oregon and the science is clear: HIV treatment is HIV prevention," said Tim Menza, M.D., medical director of the HIV/STD/TB Section at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division.

Menza said the data behind HIV treatment along with medications to prevent HIV transmission such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), "have redefined the prevention strategies to have a healthy, fulfilling, worry-free sex life."

One of the cornerstone messages of the End HIV Oregon initiative is that HIV treatment saves lives. Studies show that people living with HIV who are on effective HIV treatment, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have no risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners. Public health officials use campaigns like U=U to promote access to treatment and care.

In Oregon, people living with HIV may qualify for CAREAssist, Oregon’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which helps cover medical costs. "We need to tell absolutely everyone living with HIV that U=U, so they know they can live long, healthy, stigma-free lives," Menza said.

U=U applies only to HIV. Condoms help prevent other sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, and open communication with sexual partners is essential, Menza said. U=U is a powerful message emphasizing that, together, all Oregonians can help end new HIV infections, as well as HIV-related stigma and shame, throughout the state.

One of the most effective ways to help end HIV is to get tested. For a testing site near you, visit the End HIV website.

Bend / Central Oregon / Deschutes County / News

Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.



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