Free HIV Testing in Missouri

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In Missouri, the number of people diagnosed with HIV has increased by over 10% in the recent past. From 486 new diagnoses in 2013, the number rose to 517 in 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 13 counties at a higher risk of an HIV outbreak, most of which are in Missouri’s south-central region. These include Bates, Cedar, Crawford, Hickory, Iron, Madison, Ozark, Ripley, Reynolds, St. Francois, Wayne, Wright, and Washington counties.

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Why Testing Matters?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and could be passed from person to person through the exchange of infected blood, vaginal secretions, or semen. When an infected person comes in contact with the mucous membranes or broken skin of an uninfected person, they can easily transmit the infection and contribute to spreading the virus. Moreover, babies born to HIV-positive females may also be born with HIV as the virus can spread to the birth canal.

AIDS can be understood as a later stage of HIV. If left undiagnosed and untreated, HIV-positive individuals will eventually develop AIDS because of the prolonged presence of infection. By that time, the infected individual’s immune system gets extremely weak, developing potentially fatal infections known as opportunistic infections.

Monitoring your sexual health should be an integral part of your overall health care routine. Therefore, you must visit your doctor regularly and get tested for HIV. If you test positive, the doctor will prescribe antiretrovirals to improve/sustain your health and strengthen the immune system.

There’s no harm in getting tested and treated for HIV. Thanks to many medical solutions and treatment options available, it is possible to live a long and healthy life with HIV. In Missouri, there are many health care options and support systems available to assist infected individuals in managing the disease. So, get tested today and also convince your partner to do the same.

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HIV Statistics in Missouri

Recent data suggests that the HIV diagnosis rate in Missouri is on the rise and a disproportionately high number of people living with HIV are in rural counties.

As per CDC, Missouri is among the seven states having a substantially high rural burden as over 75 cases or 10% of all diagnoses are reported in rural areas. This concentration is most likely because of the lack of access to health care facilities in these regions.

As per the data shared by AIDSVu, in 2018, around 12,622 people were living with HIV in the state, and 447 new cases were diagnosed in Missouri statewide. Moreover, the percentage of late HIV diagnoses in 2018 was 21.7%.

Most of the infected people are on antiretroviral therapy. It is a drug-based regimen that lets infected individuals live longer and prevents the virus from being transferred to others. However, in rural areas of Missouri, it is pretty difficult for people to access HIV testing and treatment, due to which the cases are higher in these areas.

According to the state health department, HIV has impacted two metropolitan areas the most, including Kansas City and St. Louis ate 17.6 and 25.3 cases/100,000 people, respectively. Furthermore, male Missourians are 4.6 times more vulnerable to catching the disease than females.

Age, Gender, and Ethnic Disparities

Apart from geographic differences regarding HIV diagnoses in Missouri, the infection’s distribution and spread are uneven. In Missouri, approx. 10,000 people are living with HIV, and nearly 500 new infections are reported every year. It is important to note that people of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos, have shown considerable increment in the number of reported cases.

The most at-risk populations are racial minorities and MSM (men who have sex with men). According to 2019 statistics, the largest number of new HIV diagnoses were in people between 25 and 34 years of age. An alarming trend noted in the past few years is that many new infections are reported among young adults of color and adolescents.

In 2018, 82% of males were diagnosed with HIV, whereas 17% of females were HIV positive. As far as the ethnic profile is concerned, Whites were the most at-risk group of the population. Around 45% of all diagnoses were reported in whites, followed by African-Americans with 43%, and Hispanics reported only 6.2% of all cases. It is reported that in the past two years, people between 25-34 years of age are getting diagnosed with HIV at a faster rate, with 32% of all cases.

On the other hand, the second largest at-risk group was 13-24 with 26% of all diagnoses, followed by age 35-44 with 20% of all cases. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of cases has remained consistent with 543 in 2008, 520 in 2009, 568 in 2010, 524 in 2011, 532 in 2012.

A slight decline was noted between 2013 and 2015 when cases went down to 465, 465, and 463, respectively. However, this trend was short-lived as in 2016 and 2017. The number rose to 509 and 504. This shows the incidence of HIV in the state has remained high in the last decade.

Government Initiatives

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services offers a wide range of programs and services to meet the needs of HIV-positive individuals and at-risk communities. The primary focus of these initiatives is on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, offering widespread testing facilities, counseling individuals at high risk, and offering care for people living with the disease.

Missouri government has engaged actively in ending the HIV pandemic through strong partnerships with the state, local, and federal government agencies and community-based organizations.

In this regard, the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) is a very ambitious plan. It was announced in 2019 and aimed to end HIV in the country within ten years. Missouri, reportedly, is among the 57 jurisdictions selected for the initiative’s first phase due to the disproportionate occurrence of the disease in the state’s rural areas. Reportedly, the EHE initiative intends to reduce new HIV infections in the USA by 75% in the next five years and by 90% in the next ten years.

For Missouri, the initiative’s primary goal is to reduce new HIV infections and ensure that people living with HIV are aware of their infection, linked to HIV medical care, and maintain viral suppression. The program’s efforts are focused on four strategies that are known as EHE pillars. These include Diagnose, Treat, Respond, Prevent.

Early Identification of Individuals with HIV/AIDS (EIIHA) is another program that provides linkage to care data to partners, coordinates between DIS, Prevention, and Care to appropriately identify individuals who do not have access to care. It also identifies and connects with new partners, expands testing to rural areas, and monitoring data to determine testing needs in different counties.

References

Reviewed by Debby R, MD. Last updated on Aug 21, 2021

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