CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The Trump administration is launching a campaign to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the year 2030.
More than 1 million people have HIV in the U.S., with about two-thirds of new infections in gay or bisexual men, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The president’s plan would focus on 48 U.S. counties where the most new infections occur, which are primarily in the South. It was announced at Tuesday’s State of the Union among other health policy topics.
This comes after Trump administration efforts to roll back protections for those in the LGBT community.
In the meantime, several Hampton Roads health districts are teaming up to try and stop the spread of HIV here.
The latest numbers, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s annual report, show 831 new cases of HIV diagnosed in the commonwealth last year.
Of those new cases, 220 were in Hampton Roads. Norfolk had the most with 54, followed by Virginia Beach with 50. Suffolk had the fewest with 12.
“It’s kind of scary, cause people thought, ‘oh, HIV its not a thing anymore,’ and it is,” said Chesapeake Health Department spokesperson Kimi Stevens.
Stevens told WAVY.com that STDs overall are on the rise in our area.
“The whole ‘hook-up culture, social media anonymous screen apps — Jack’d, Grindr, Tinder — you don’t know who they are, and you can take an Uber and you can leave,” she said.
That is why the Chesapeake Health Department is part of a new outreach campaign, Stevens said.
“Since November of 2017 we’ve seen a relatively large increase in the areas, so that’s why we decided to do this outreach event with Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, because people in Hampton Roads don’t stay in their own city.”
You will soon see public service announcements, billboards, testing events, and Stevens said a concert is even in the works — anything to get the word out.
“If you get tested and get treated, you can live a pretty healthy, normal life “
Those new drugs may actually be one reason for the spread. Since HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence, Stevens said, people stopped having safe sex.
The most at risk groups are still gay men, and black and hispanic men, but anyone can get it at any age.
23 of the new cases in the state were diagnosed in people over the age of 65.
You never know who might have HIV — in fact, most who do have it don’t know it themselves for years.
That’s why Stevens says everyone should get tested, and next Friday, February 15, it will pay to get tested.
The Chesapeake Health Department will be handing out free $10 gas cards to those who come out and get tested between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Health Department, which is located at 748 Battlefield Blvd. N. behind Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.
Testing is free and confidential.