BALTIMORE — There are 1.1 million of AIDS in the United States. Maryland had 28,197 cases of HIV as of December 31, 2011, and ranks ninth in the U.S. for total AIDS cases. An estimated 30 percent of local men who have sex with men are living with HIV. Meanwhile, there were 452 cases of syphilis in 2011, and of those 43.4 percent of infected individuals also had HIV. Syphilis and HIV co-infections are a public health concern for Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
The presence of syphilis sores, known as chancres, make it easier to transmit or acquire HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS.
“We encourage residents to get tested and treated for HIV and syphilis. If you are HIV positive, remember to remain on antiretroviral treatment (ART) medications as prescribed by your health care provider,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein.
HIV and syphilis co-infection have been reported mostly among those in the 20 to 29 age range 50 percent; African Americans 83 percent and men who have sex with men 92 percent.
Public health officials advise Marylanders to avoid high-risk behaviors that can lead to HIV infections, including multiple sex partners, unprotected sex, sharing IV drug needles, and being too intoxicated by alcohol and drugs to make wise decisions.
“Residents are reminded to get educated about HIV, get tested for HIV and get treated if you are HIV positive,” said Infectious Disease Bureau Director, Deborah McGruder. “One of our community partners, the STAR TRACK program, assists youth who are at risk for HIV and AIDS.”
The University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Special Teens At-Risk Together Reaching Access Care and Knowledge (STAR TRACK) provides comprehensive HIV prevention and education for youth ages 12-24. Screenings for HIV are offered Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 120 Penn Street, in Baltimore, Maryland. Youth who are newly diagnosed with HIV or need to re-engage in care are offered same day appointments with an HIV specialist. The programs include case management services addressing homophobia and racism for African American men having sex with men regardless of HIV status, and linking transgender persons to medical care.
“A lack of health literacy and youth not understanding reproductive health systems are related to the number of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) exposures,” said Jamal H.N. Hailey, director of the program. “If you are HIV negative, take measures to make sure you remain negative. Practice safer sex, get regular HIV tests and talk to your provider about things you can do to remain negative. STAR TRACK offers individual and group level services to support youth in developing a healthy sexuality and health literacy skills in Baltimore.”
Free HIV testing will also be offered on Friday, September 27, 2013 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at McKeldin Square Waterfalls in the Baltimore City Inner Harbor, which is located on the corner of Pratt and Light Street in Baltimore, Maryland.
To locate a testing site in your area, visit: http://hivtest.cdc.gov/Default.aspx.