Free HIV Testing in Montana

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HIV and AIDS have been making it to the news headlines for a few decades now. But the virus first found its way to the United States in mid-1981. Since then, the HIV-related mortalities in the United States have plummeted. Health authorities across the country have been working on newer treatments, making healthy and everyday life possible for HIV patients.

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Montana, just like the other U.S States, has also been hit by the HIV epidemic. Considering the data from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, 2015, an estimated 19 adults and adolescents were newly diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in the state. According to the same report, Montana was ranked 48th of the 50 U.S states regarding the new diagnosis during the same year.

Why Does Testing Matter?

HIV, if remains undiagnosed, progresses to a life-threatening disease called AIDS. Owing to the devastating effects of the disease and the fast spread, it is essential for everyone belonging to a potential risk group to be well aware of their HIV status. Regular testing for HIV is important in slowing down the spread of HIV. Most of the people affected by the virus do not know about their HIV status, so it is less likely for them to be taking precautionary measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.

According to data shared by the CDC approximately 85% of the people living with HIV know about their HIV status, while 15% of the HIV-positive individuals are not aware of their HIV status. Moreover, 40% of the new diagnosis are linked to the 15% of individuals who are not aware of them being HIV positive. That is one reason why CDC recommends every individual get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. People belonging to the risk groups, such as heterosexual or gay men, people using injectable drugs or individuals with more than one sexual partner, etc., should include HIV testing in their annual medical routine. HIV testing is particularly essential for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers as they can pass the virus to the fetus during the pregnancy or through breast milk.

If the virus is diagnosed and treated in time, it can save the individual from several health problems. Taking antiretroviral drugs is one of the popular methods of treatment of the virus, and these drugs curb the spread of the virus and enable the patient to live a healthy and everyday life. Only through timely diagnosis and treatment, the risk of HIV further progress to AIDS can be reduced.

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HIV Statistics in Montana

The land of the shining mountains, one of the popular names of Montana, is given to it because of its natural beauty. Montana is the fourth largest state of the country in terms of area and the seventh least populated state having a total population of roughly about a million. However, the state has been dealing with the HIV pandemic since long and the rates are currently touching their record highs.

Considering the data from CDC, during 2015, a total of 39,393 people were newly diagnosed with HIV and most of them were adolescents newly diagnosed with HIV. Hence, Montana was declared the 48th most impacted of the 50 U.S states as far as the number of HIV diagnoses is concerned.

There has been a slight increase in the number of newly diagnosed cases of HV in Montana. According to a report by AIDSVu, in 2018, the total number of newly diagnosed cases in Montana climbed to 23. The same report indicates that the total number of HIV-positive people living in the state was 644.

Despite the health authorities' efforts in Montana, HIV cases are on a slow rise. A news source from 2020 indicated that approximately 728 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Montana. Although HIV cases are more prevalent in metropolitan areas, small cities could be equally affected. Recent statistics suggest that Yellow Stone, Missoula, Gallatin, Flathead, and Ravalli counties were most affected by HIV.

Initiatives to Prevent HIV in Montana

Montana, as a state, has so much to offer to people who are diagnosed with HIV. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services provides a comprehensive patient care package for HIV patients. It helps the low-income and the under or uninsured optimal care and treatment. The program receives funding from the federal initiative, Ryan White Part B, to provide medications, support services, housing, treatment, and financial assistance to HIV patients.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program, ADAP, assists the HIV patients of Montana by providing FDA-approved medications for the virus. The recipient of the assistance must be a citizen of Montana and belong to a low-income group.

Open Aid Alliance is an initiative that provides housing facilities to people living with HIV in Montana. The initiative also aims to provide counseling and support group services to the patients with the housing.

Age, Gender and Ethnic Disparities

According to data from AIDSVu, there were a total of 644 people living with HIV in Montana in 2018. The rate of people living with HIV in the state per 100,000 population was 72. Among the diagnosed individuals, 84.5% were males, while 15.5% were females. The same report indicates that most of the diagnosed cases came from the age group 55 years and above (35.9%), 28.6% of the diagnosis was made in the age group 45 to 54 years, 20.7% in 35 to 44 years, followed by 12.9% and 2.0% in 25-34 years and 13 to 24 years consecutively.

Research conducted by the Department of Public Health and Human Services and published in HIV surveillance report, 2018, the total number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the state was 24. Out of 24, six of the patients were diagnosed with the virus at the same time. The same report revealed that around 74% of the reported cases were of individuals from Non-Hispanic (White) backgrounds, followed by 8% American Indians, 3% Black/African Americans, 8% Hispanic, and 6% non-Hispanic individuals.

As per AIDSVu, the number of HIV-related mortalities during 2018 was 11. The rate of HIV-related mortalities per 100,000 population was 1. 90.9% were males while 9.1% were females. The same report indicates that the most common modes of transmission of HIV in males were male to male sexual contact (66.4%), heterosexual contact accounted for 5.0% of the total number of diagnoses, and 8.6% of the cases were reported due to the use of contaminated injections. In females, the most common mode of transmission of HIV was heterosexual contact 61.0%, and 38 % of the cases were reported due to contaminated injection use.

References

Reviewed by Debby R, MD. Last updated on Jan 13, 2022

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