The rate of HIV among young gay men, particularly in urban areas, continues to rise. (It’s also important to remember the ways that AIDS disproportionately affects some marginalized groups, such as young black men.) However, some new developments in HIV prevention have offered some new options for people.
Most exciting for me is the development of an at-home HIV test. Within only twenty to forty minutes, the OraQuick At-Home HIV Test can tell you whether or not you have HIV. Regular STI testing is one of the most important aspects of HIV prevention: depending on their risk factors, most people who use IV drugs or are sexually active should get tested anywhere from every three months to every few years. However, many people do not want to get tested: they don’t know where to find a testing site, they’d feel stigmatized if someone saw them entering an STI testing site, they’re afraid of knowing the answer, or they just have a lot of things to do and not enough time to do them in. More options means that there will be more choices for people to pick the way to get tested that’s right for them, which means that more of the estimated one-fifth of American people with HIV who don’t know that they have it will discover that they’re HIV-positive.
Also very important is the development of the first drug that prevents HIV. Approved for men who have sex with men and those whose partners carry HIV, Truvada decreases the risk of HIV infection by between 42% and 75%. Unfortunately, the drug costs as much as $11,000 a year, putting it out of the price range of many people who need the drug, such as the young black men who have sex with men that are at the highest risk of developing HIV. It also must be taken every day lest one lose the protection of the drug or (worse) play a part in developing drug-resistant HIV. Therefore, this drug is not a “yay, HIV doesn’t matter anymore” thing– it’s a precaution for people who are at very high risk. The regular and correct use of condoms is still one of the best means of preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs and of pregnancy (as well as outercourse, monogamous or polyfidelitous relationships with people who have been tested, etc.).