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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | June 26th, 2023

    We Have the Tools

    It would not have been on my radar had I not attended the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas conference this past week. I listened to Dr. Chinwe Ogedegbe’s lecture on Delivering Effective and Equitable HIV Care. We were reminded disparity still exists when it comes to HIV.

    • Although Black/African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. Population, they account for 42.1 percent of HIV infection cases in 2019.
    • In 2020 African Americans were 7.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV infection than the white population.
    • African American males have 8.1 times the AIDS rate compared to white males.
    • African American females have 15 times the AIDS rate compared to white females.
    • African American men are 6.0 times as likely to die from HIV infection as non-Hispanic white men.
    • African American women are 15.3 times as likely to die from HIV infection as white women.

    Tuesday, June 27th is National HIV Testing Day, and this year’s theme is Take the Test & Take the Next Step. Getting tested is easy and free. If we are going to stop the HIV epidemic, we need to know our status, but that is not enough. Regardless of your test results, you must take the next step.

    If you test positive, you want to seek treatment as soon as possible, and treatment is free. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.

    If you test negative, it is essential to remember there are steps to take to make sure you stay negative. It would help if you continued to use condoms. If you are having sex with someone who is HIV positive or is at risk of getting HIV, there is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP works in preventing HIV infection. Only 9% of black people who could benefit from PrEP received a prescription, and only 16% of Hispanic/Latino people who could benefit from PrEP received a prescription.  

    There is also PEP which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. You need to take the HIV medicines within 72 hours (3 days) after possible exposure to HIV to prevent HIV infection. PEP should be used only in emergencies.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a bold initiative – Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. We have the tools to end the epidemic. We have to use the tools. The first tool is knowing our status. The CDC recommends that everyone between 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. If you do not know your HIV status, this is your opportunity – June 27th, National HIV Testing Day. The other tools are PrEP and PEP.

    Click here to learn more about testing, including self-testing and where to get tested.

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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