My YKHealth

National HIV Testing Day is June 27

National HIV Testing Day, recognized on June 27, is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and reduce stigma about sexual health. From 2016-2020, rates of HIV/AIDS have been steadily increasing in Alaska, particularly among Native communities. Recent estimates indicate that two of every five Alaskans diagnosed with HIV are Alaska Native. The risks associated with HIV are not limited to specialized populations, but impact across the spectrum of age and sexuality, particularly among women. According to the CDC, in 2021, 82% of new HIV infections were attributed to male/female or heterosexual contact.

Many people are aware of safer-sex practices that can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV. But did you also know there are medications that can be taken pre- or post-exposure to the virus to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV?

When used as directed, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) can cut a person’s risk of HIV/AIDS by 99%. PrEP (brand name: Truvada, DESCOVY) is a medication that prevents transmission of HIV/AIDS by disabling the virus’ ability to attach to your cells. This medicine doesn’t have to be taken every day; using PrEP just 2-24 hours before you think you could be exposed dramatically reduces your risk.

Who would benefit most from PrEP?  Men who have sex with men, IV drug users, individuals who inconsistently use condoms or who have had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis in the past 6 months should talk to their doctors about PrEP. Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea increase the risk of contracting HIV/AIDs, because they impair the body’s ability to fight the virus.

Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is also available. When taken within three days after possible exposure, PEP can reduce transmission by 80%.

Comprehensive HIV and STI testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis, post-exposure prophylaxis are available at YKHC. HIV testing can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Contact to request your free home test today.

Maintaining your sexual health is as important as monitoring your blood pressure and annual cancer screenings. It may be difficult to talk about, but speaking with your health care provider about HIV testing and medications like PrEP can protect you and your partners for years to come.

In Bethel, you can call 907-543-6442 to schedule your appointment to get tested and speak with your provider about PrEP. In the villages, call your local health clinic.