At the end of the year 2018, approximately 1.2 million people in the United States (aged 13 and above) were diagnosed with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). It is a virus that mainly attacks those cells in our body that help in fighting off infections. Hence, the individual becomes highly vulnerable to life-threatening diseases and infections.
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A concerning fact is that nearly 14% (161,800) of people hadn't undergone a proper diagnosis. In 2015, Nevada ranked twenty-first among the 50 states as far as the number of HIV diagnoses is concerned. Currently, its rank is eighteenth in the country regarding the number of people diagnosed with HIV. This means the rate of infection has increased considerably in the state.
The primary reason behind such a sharp incline is that most people, especially young adults, are unaware of the illness and continually transmitting the disease to their partners. Since people don't know about their condition, they never think about getting tested for HIV, which aggravates the issue.
Testing is extremely important in winning the fight against this deadly virus. There's no other way to detect the virus as many of its symptoms are similar to other less harmful diseases. You need to know your status to keep yourself and your partner(s) sexually healthy. Early diagnosis will benefit you greatly as you will have a better chance of living a healthy and long life.
Several community groups and agencies in Nevada have launched several effective initiatives with the sole purpose of decreasing the percentage of new HIV infections. Initiatives like PrEP Academic Detailing, Substance Abuse HIV Testing and Harm Reduction Programs are most prominent.
PrEP Academic Detailing is launched by the Nevada Department of Public and Behavioral Health in collaboration with the local health departments. This project aims to increase access to HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) clinical services across the state. It is a one-on-one outreach education program to help clinicians offer evidence-based care to patients. ChangePoint is a significant Harm Reduction Program launched by Northern Nevada HOPES. The state's first-ever legal syringe services initiative under which testing and outreach services, syringe services, and community building opportunities are offered to medically underserved groups throughout Nevada.
In Las Vegas, the Trac B Exchange center is focused on protecting people's health in Southern Nevada. This storefront site offers consultation to the community for harm reduction and infection prevention through creating awareness about syringe use and disposal.
The Substance Abuse Prevention & Treatment Agency (SAPTA) HIV Testing Program is launched to assist SAPTA State-certified transitional or residential treatment options to ensure rapid HIV testing, reduce HIV incidence, and increase access to care.
Nevada's HIV profile is unique because HIV infections is detected in almost all age groups. Youth between 13 to 24 account for sixteen percent of new HIV diagnoses. The burden of new diagnoses is highest among those between the age of 25 to 34 (40%). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nevadans with HIV will face an average lifetime cost of $501,000 to treat their infection.
CDC reports that in 1993, Nevada had around 1,537 HIV cases, and Nevada ranked twenty-fourth in nationwide survey in terms of total cases reported, but ranked ninth in the rate of HIV diagnoses with an average of 40 people per 100,000 people. It was a high-impact state already, but today, Nevada has become a high-risk and high-priority state due to its unique demographics.
In all seventeen counties of Nevada, people are living with HIV. Out of the 17 counties, Clark County has the highest number of new diagnoses with 20 cases/100,000 people. Clark County also has the highest number of people with HIV/AIDS (460 people/100,000 population). Next in line is Washoe County, which has the second highest new HIV diagnoses rate with over 7 cases per 100,000 people and the second-highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS (282/100,000 people).
AIDSVu reported that in 2014 the number of people living with the disease was nearly 8,400, and in 2015, there were over 450 new reported cases. In 2018, the number of people living with HIV crossed 10,000, and the rate of people living with HIV/AIDS per 100,000 people was 403. The total number of deaths with HIV was 146 in 2018; 78% were males and 21.9% females.
In Nevada, males are disproportionately impacted by the virus because the HIV transmission rate is comparatively higher among males who have sex with males (MSM). As per the year 2017 statistics, over 7,500 MSM were living with HIV in Nevada, and the number of new diagnoses was over 300; heterosexual males living with HIV were around 1,300.
In 2018, there were over 83% males and 16% females living with HIV in Nevada, out of which 25.5% were Blacks, 26.4% were Hispanic/Latinx, and more than 40% were whites. The new diagnoses percentage among males in 2018 was 87.7%, and 12.3% in females. Concerning age, in 2018, 19% of the people diagnosed with HIV in Nevada aged between 13 and 24, 37% were between 25 and 34 years, 20% were between 35 and 44 years of age, 14% between 45-54, and 8.2% were 55 or older.
In 2015, around 39% of female high-school students and over 40% of male high school students were reported to have had indulged in sexual activity, compared to 39% of females and 43% of male students nationwide.
In Nevada, the percentage of lesbian, gay, or bisexual high school students was 47, and 45% of high school students weren't sure about their sexual orientation. Over 39% of heterosexual high-school students have had sexual intercourse in Nevada. Around 43.5% of Hispanic and 40% of white high-school students reported having had sexual intercourse.
These statistics suggest that sex education in Nevada hasn't successfully created awareness among adolescents and young adults regarding safe sex practices. That's because the rate of HIV diagnoses among adolescents is continually inclining. According to the CDC, almost half of all HIV infections within the US occur among people below 25. HIV is the 6th leading cause of death among people between 15 and 24 years.
State laws and regulations in this context serve as the foundation to encourage school-based sexual education programs. It is important to develop well-designed and well-implemented programs to reduce risky sexual behaviors among the youth.
In Nevada, an Advisory Committee is authorized to select and approve the sexual health education curriculum. However, the programs do not provide awareness about contraception, and abstinence is also not addressed. Furthermore, parents or guardians are allowed to opt their kids out of sexual health education. These are critical issues that must be given due consideration when devising sexual health education programs and curriculum.