An estimated 35 million people worldwide, about 12 times the total population of San Diego County, are currently living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This December 1, Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) joins others in honoring these individuals during World AIDS Day. On this day, people around the globe remember individuals who lost their battle with the virus, support those who are currently HIV positive and honor those who have worked, and continue to work, to find a cure.

World AIDS Day is also a good opportunity to take some time to learn about HIV and ensure you adopt safe practices to prevent its spread. Although there is currently no cure for the virus, most Americans diagnosed today have a normal life expectancy, thanks to a better understanding of HIV and how to treat it.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the body’s disease-fighting white blood cells. HIV does not discriminate against age, race, gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. However, some people have a higher chance of contracting HIV than others because of certain risk factors, including sex partners, risky behavior and treatment availability.

Those who have HIV have a responsibility to be honest about their condition, and there are steps they can take to prevent the spread of HIV. Not having sex (abstinence) is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV, but if that’s not possible, you can lower the risk of spreading the disease by wearing a condom during sexual activity.

Regardless of your health status, it’s important to adopt safe practices to prevent the spread of HIV. Make sure to discuss your status with your partner and get tested often. As the largest provider of HIV and hepatitis treatment and prevention services in the region, FHCSD believes in a client-centered approach that takes the whole individual into consideration when discussing prevention and treatment. We provide a variety of testing, supportive services and education, and we pride ourselves on working with community partners for referrals and resources.

Routine testing for hepatitis B and C and HIV is offered at all clinic locations, with our Hillcrest Family Health Center providing quality treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS. Hillcrest Family Health Center also offers Tuesday and Thursday Night Clinic (TNC2) through our Ciaccio Memorial Clinic, which provides FREE and confidential HIV and STI testing, as well as rapid and early testing.

Additionally, our Gay Men’s Health Services provides supportive services to men who have sex with other men and transgender individuals and also has services specifically designed to address the needs of the Latino and African-American communities. Learn more about their programs and services by visiting their website. Community members are also encouraged to visit our HIV Prevention Center (located at 4040 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104) to meet with a dedicated and knowledgeable Case Manager, receive HIV information, treatment and prevention services, and more.

Whether you have HIV or simply want to learn more about it, we are here to help. Please call us for more information at (619) 515-2449 or visit our HIV/hepatitis C webpage.