HIV will remain an epidemic until those infected are diagnosed and treated. The CDC estimates as many 1 in 5 individuals with HIV are unaware they are infected. Screening for HIV infection is now recommended for all adolescents and adults.
In the last several years, Marin has averaged 20 new HIV diagnoses per year. Approximately half of these individuals were diagnosed with AIDS within a year, suggesting long-standing infection at the time of HIV diagnosis. This indicates missed opportunities to diagnose and treat HIV early, to improve survival and limit further transmission within the community.
Routine HIV screening has gotten much easier to perform in the recent past. Most encounters provide an opportunity for “opt-out” testing. Patients don’t need a separate consent form-- they only need to be informed of the test and given the option to decline. Testing is minimally invasive when added to routine blood work or performed at the point of care.
In order to eliminate any barriers to screening all adolescents and adults, Marin County provides free rapid HIV testing. The HIV Rapid Response line at 415-457-2002 is available to any county resident or provider. Primary care and linkage to supportive services for people living with HIV are also available.
The importance of early HIV identification, linkage to medical care, and adherence to medication in order to limit the “community viral load” is an important means of primary prevention against HIV. The HIV treatment cascade illustrates the consequences of undiagnosed and untreated disease as a driver of ongoing epidemic spread.
As of January 1, 2013, there were 562 people living with HIV in Marin. The majority are male, over 40, and 1 in 5 is over 60 years of age. Our most recent HIV surveillance report can be viewed here.