According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Human Immunodeficiency Virus — or HIV — is a condition that kills vital T-cells weakening immune responses. It’s transmitted through mixing body fluids such as blood, semen, breast milk and in utero transmission. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final and most severe phase of HIV infection, and is subject to opportunistic infections or cancers, which weak immune responses cannot fight off.
“It’s so important to talk about this because marginalized communities, certain communities have had less access to sexual health,” said Xian Bass, an HIV programs specialist with Planned Parenthood.
Bass and her colleague, Josh Garcia — who works at N’MPower— will help provide testing in the SUB on Thursday, but also provide it each week at the LGBTQ resource center. Garcia said he wanted to emphasize N’MPower is a safe space for all students, and seeks to include LGBTQ people where they can receive free, confidential tests.
“It’s not about what your status is, it’s actually about you knowing your status,” Garcia said about HIV.
As a consequence of HIV/AIDS Garcia and Bass have both lost someone close, and that loss impacts their work. Bass was born in 1985, the height of the scare. She said her uncle had contracted it, and died from complications. She said his feelings of being stigmatized contributed to his death.
Bass said even though stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS status exists, the work she does tries to fight the “misconception that HIV/AIDs is a death sentence.”
Garcia said a close friend found out he had a positive HIV/AIDS status and committed suicide because he didn’t see another path.
This is an especially important consideration because those who are most vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS: bisexual, gay, and transgender people of color are also at higher risk to attempt suicide.
Anyone with questions can call HIV/AIDS Hotline New Mexico at (505) 476-3612.
If you or a loved one are looking for support, the AGORA crisis center can be reached at (505) 277-3013.
The CDC reports across the U.S. African American people face disproportionate rates of new HIV diagnoses, and individuals living with HIV compared to the rest of the population. In 2017, African Americans accounted for 13 percent of the population but made up of HIV in that same year. That means nearly 17,000 new cases of 38,739 were African American people.
On the national scale there have been of new HIV occurrences for African American women (decreased by 25 percent), and heterosexual men by 26 percent between 2010 and 2016. However, in the same timeframe, there was a significant 40 percent increase in HIV cases for gay and bisexual black men ages 25 to 34.
What to expect when getting an HIV Test
Bass and Garcia gave the Daily Lobo a rundown on what getting a free, confidential HIV rapid test looks like. After putting on gloves and sterilizing someone’s ring or middle finger with an alcohol wipe, they’ll prick a finger, and fill a small pipette with a small sample of blood. The test results will be ready in just 20 minutes.
The rapid testing kits can cost around $400, but Bass said the reality of a person not knowing their HIV status is so much more costly.
First Nations Community Healthsource
University of New Mexico Truman Health Services
Southwest CARE Center
New Mexico Department of Health