Statistics show that many who have HIV don't know they're infected, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, along with Abbott Laboratories, is taking to social media to get that message out.
"We need people to know their status," Johnathon Briggs, spokesperson for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, recently said about the Need2Know HIV campaign. "We know from recent scientific studies ... people who know their status early can start treatment early."
Briggs cited a recent National Institutes of Health study showing that when a person takes their medications to treat HIV/AIDS, they reduce the chance they will transmit the disease to others by 96 percent.
"Treatment is prevention," he said.
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago says that 20,000 people in Chicago have HIV/AIDS, a number three times as high as national rates.
According to data released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of people ages 13 to 24 who have HIV don't know that they're infected. And young people in that age bracket make up 26 percent of those who will be newly infected with HIV this year.
The Need2Know HIV campaign, which kicked off on World AIDS Day earlier this month, also seeks to educate people about the different types of HIV tests available, information Briggs said is very much needed.
He pointed out that many of the free tests done at sites like clubs and festivals are of the oral swab variety. Positive results on those tests must be confirmed with a blood test at a clinic or hospital, he said.
"Every step of the way is really important for people to understand what is happening," Briggs said. "Because learning that you have HIV is a life-changing event."
And though most people have heard for years that they should get tested, he said ignorance remains a problem when it comes to the details.
"The more you get into the nuances of it, the more people are like, 'Wow, I didn't know that,'" he said. "We need to kind of take it to the next level. And this campaign is to really get more of people doing that."
For more information, visit the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's web site or the Need2Know HIV campaign Facebook page.
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