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About AIDS

CDC Pushing HIV-Pos People to Be SAFE

By Sandy Bartlett, February 23, 2001, Columns

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has launched a new prevention campaign called Serostatus Approach to Fighting the Epidemic, or SAFE. They hope to cut the number of new infections in half by 2005 through identifying HIV-positive people who don't know they are infected.

Almost a million people in the U.S. have HIV, but an estimated 40-50% of them do not know it. HIV/AIDS has a long "incubation" period from initial infection to the development of serious disease (the AIDS stage), so they still look and feel healthy, and they have not gotten tested for HIV, at least not since they became infected. An estimated 40,000-50,000 infections annually in the USA, and research demonstrates that the transmission is typically from an individual who doesn't know. Most people, when they discover their positive status, change to safe or safer behaviors. Thus, tackling those who don't yet know seems the key to reducing new infections.

You will begin seeing the campaign soon, including:

• a "Know Now!" media campaign on radio and buses in the hardest-hit neighborhoods;

• getting the FDA to approve rapid-result HIV tests for marketing this year;

• encouraging much more widespread HIV testing;

• working with the 2,000 doctors who do most of the nation's HIV care, helping them to counsel their patients about safe(r) behaviors.

Even without an injected vaccine, we can stop this epidemic in the U.S. if we all work together. Knowing one's HIV status can be that first step toward taking increased responsibility for fighting AIDS. Be safe!

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