Free HIV Testing in Oregon

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In Oregon, Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV was declared the fourth most common STI (sexually transmitted infection) in 2016 in terms of annual diagnoses. As with any contagious infection, the rapid transmission of HIV despite numerous government awareness campaigns has resulted in a higher number of new HIV diagnoses in Oregon.

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Why Testing Matters?

HIV is a deadly virus that can progress to another chronic health condition called AIDS. HIV generally spreads from person to person through sexual contact. However, using shared or contaminated syringes/needles or transfusion of infected blood/blood products are also potential risk factors.

In Oregon, common STIs such as hepatitis C, syphilis, shigella, and gonorrhea have been on the rise for the past five years. This is a concerning situation because these diseases are like a warning bell for the individual because they are more likely to contract HIV.

For example, 20% of males diagnosed with rectal gonorrhea in 2018 may contract HIV within five years, stated Oregon Health Authority (OHA). The agency also noted that most people affected by HIV already had hepatitis C. These sexually transmitted diseases are the leading cause behind the HIV epidemic that Oregon is currently facing. The reason why these diseases convert into HIV and later in AIDS is lack of treatment. If the diseases aren't diagnosed at the right time, it becomes almost impossible to prevent their progress into HIV.

Therefore, every sexually active person needs to get tested for STIs and HIV every year. This is particularly important for men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users, and those with multiple partners. It is possible to suppress HIV to a point where the infection cannot be transmitted to other individuals with treatment.

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HIV Statistics in Oregon

Between 1981 and 2018, Oregon state reported 10,566 new HIV infections, and until 2018, around 4,613 Oregon people living with HIV have died. Approximately 7,622 people were living with HIV in this state in 2018, but statistics suggest that over 1,241 persons might be infected but are yet undiagnosed.

HIV is the most prevalent of all STIs in Oregon. At the end of 2016, the total number of people living with HIV (PLWH) in Oregon was 7,250, according to the data shared by the Oregon Public Health Division. However, there has been a drop noted in the number of yearly diagnoses as the state recorded more than 700 new cases in 2007, while in 2015, this number dropped to 530. In contrast, there were over 7,050 PLWH in Oregon at the end of 2018, and 229 new HIV cases were diagnosed in the state, as per AIDSVu's report.

According to 2019 HIV statistics for Oregon, around 3,068 males were living with HIV (without AIDS), and 3,745 had HIV/AIDS. Similarly, 415 females were living with HIV, and 503 had HIV and AIDS. The leading risk factor in the spread of HIV in Oregon is men who have sex with men as they accounted for 73% or over 5000 cases overall, while injection drug usage led to 6% or 408 of all cases. Sex with men as well as injection drug usage accounted for 11% or 722 cases, and unprotected heterosexual contact was responsible for 194 of 3% of all HIV diagnoses in the state.

Multnomah County is regarded as the epicenter of HIV outbreaks, and the state is seeing its largest infection rates in the past three years. According to public health officials, 42 people were diagnosed with HIV in this county in the latter half of 2018, and all of these are new cases. This number is twice as high as the number of patients identified in 2016-2017, when only 25 cases were reported in Multnomah County.

Age, Gender, and Ethnic Disparities

Males accounted for over 6,810 overall HIV cases in Oregon at the rate of 331.9 cases/ 100,000 male population. In contrast, females reported 918 cases with 43.9/100,000 females, according to OHA's quarterly HIV surveillance report for April 2019.

Ethnicity-wise, Hispanics accounted for more than 1,000 cases with 199.8 cases identified per 100,000 people, and whites reported the highest number of cases with 5,567 and a rate of 180.2 cases/100,000 population. African Americans comprised 584 cases, while 76 American Indian/Alaskan Native were diagnosed with HIV.

Regarding age groups, the 50-59-year-olds reported the highest share of HIV infections in Oregon with a whopping 2,489 cases out of the overall 7,731 reported cases, followed by 40-49 years old people who reported 1,769 of all cases and the third most impacted age group was those above 60 years of age as they had 1,666 cases. The 30-39 age group reported 1,313 cases and quickly became one of the top three most affected age groups in Oregon.

State Initiatives

End HIV Oregon was launched on Dec. 1, on World AIDS Day. It was launched by the OHA and its public health/community partners to mark Oregon's five-year strategy to reduce new HIV infections. The program involves contributions from community members and private and public agencies and offers various services, from syringe exchange programs to prevention education and quality care and treatment.

Oregon's Integrated HIV Prevention and Care Plan 2017-2021 is developed to engage people at higher risk of contracting HIV, PLWH, community stakeholders, and service delivery providers. It entails those strategies and plans through which the OHA intends to address the HIV outbreak in the state and establishes how the agency intends to achieve HIV care, treatment, and prevention goals. This program uses the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) as its primary organizing framework. It aims at achieving three key goals- reducing new HIV infections, expanding access to care and better health outcomes for PLWH, and reducing HIV-related health inequalities and disparities. These strategies, goals, and activities are developed by Oregon's statewide operating HIV planning group called the IPG.

HIV Alliance is another important initiative that offers a standard of care for PLWH without any biases regarding sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, or social status. The program offers appropriate resources to community members of Oregon. HIV Alliance has partnered with the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire and the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Willamette Empire, two of the leading charitable non-profit organizations working for LGBTQIA+ communities. The organization continuously works with LGBTQIA+ individuals/community organizations to offer HIV screening, treatment, and care support. TransPonder, the Regional Pride committees, the Eugene Bears (MSM social group), and middle school and high school GSAs are some of its recent partners.

References

Reviewed by Debby R, MD. Last updated on Jan 12, 2022

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