Area HIV programs seeing steady patient inflow
URBANA — The new patients infected with HIV trickle in at about three to four a month at Carle's HIV program.
But what concerns program manager Cindy Goetting just as much as these new cases of a preventable infection are all the people out there who don't know they have it.
Flu-like illness is an early sign of infection for many with human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV — but rarely do people link flu-like symptoms with HIV, Goetting said.
"Usually, they think they have the flu," she said.
Left untreated for several years, HIV typically progresses to AIDS.
With another World AIDS Day set Sunday to raise awareness, Goetting and others said following guidelines for routine HIV screening is key to keeping the infection from multiplying.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine HIV screening for all sexually active people ages 13-64.
"We're trying to say it's unacceptable not to know they have HIV," Goetting said.
The number of infected people in the U.S. who don't know they're infected stands at one in five, according to the CDC.
The agency also said one in four of new HIV infections occur among teens and young adults ages 13-24.
Carle has about 450 active infected patients under management in its HIV program, Goetting said.
But not everyone infected receives treatment, and even fewer adhere to treatment after starting, she said.
Only about 66 percent of diagnosed HIV-infected people are linked to medical care, and only about 37 percent of those people linked to treatment remain under care, according to the CDC.
"What we see are barriers to care," Goetting said.
Those barriers can include expense, transportation, the overwhelming effect of illness, the age of people dealing with the illness and the stigma of infection.
"We've had several UI students diagnosed in the past month," Goetting said. "They're at the age when they're in college, belonging to fraternities and sororities, and to think about coming to a doctor and what it's going to take to keep this illness in check is a difficult thing."
HIV is a preventable infection if people take such precautions as avoiding risky sex and sharing needles, Goetting said.
HIV spreads through silence and lack of communication, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, which manages 300-350 HIV-infected clients of its own from 17 counties.
The health district sees 12 to 15 new positive cases a year, but its total number of cases under management has remained about the same for the past several years, said Candi Crause, its infectious disease director.
Why a steady number of new cases for a preventable infection?
"One theory is that it's not as concerning to people as it used to be," Crause said.
Goetting advised everyone to talk to their health care providers and ask whether they need to be screened for HIV. Tests are available through public health and doctor's offices.
The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District offers HIV testing at its facility at 201 W. Kenyon Road, C, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.