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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

State Department Of Health Reminds People To Get HIV Test

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in seven people currently living with HIV is unaware they have the virus.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health would like to see that change, and it's urging all people between the ages of 13 and 64 to get tested for the disease.

“The HIV rates in Pennsylvania continue to be a significant and serious health problem,” said Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine.

Levine said there is absolutely every reason for a person to get tested and to know whether they have the disease, even if they do not think they have it.

“The infection with the HIV virus can be relatively quiet for a period of time and sometimes even for many years,” Levine said. “So people might have been infected with the HIV virus at some time in the past and they don’t realize it.”

Levine said that some people are at a greater risk of contracting HIV than others, and those people may want to get tested more than once.

“Some of the risk factors are in terms of sexual activity, so men who have sex with men should get tested for HIV more commonly,” she said. “Also, heterosexual couples, depending upon their activity, might want to consider getting tested more often, and particularly those individuals who use IV drugs.”

The HIV test is fully covered under all forms of health insurance, and the test is confidential, according to Levine.

She said the most effective prevention against the disease is to not participate in the risk factors associated with the disease.

“The best way to not get HIV or another sexually transmitted infection would be not to be having sex, or to be in a monogamous relationship,” she said. “But we certainly recommend use of condoms, and we certainly recommend that people don’t use IV drugs.”

For those who do regularly participate in the risk behaviors, there is still a way to help prevent the disease, according to Levine.

“There is an HIV prevention program called PrEP, where they can obtain, it’s a combination of two medications that an individual would take daily, and they can protect themselves from getting HIV,” she said.