Galveston County sees slight increase in number of people living with HIV
More than 1,000 people are living with HIV in Galveston County.
That statistic comes from the Texas 2017 HIV Surveillance Report, published by the Texas Department of State Health Services, which includes information on HIV infection, AIDS and people living with HIV cases diagnosed Dec. 31, 2017-June 30, 2018. The number of people living with HIV includes records through Dec. 31, 2017.
According to the report, Galveston County had 1,025 people living with HIV, ranking 11th statewide. While the county’s ranking did not change since the 2016 report, the number of people living with the disease increased by 55.
“While we did see a small increase in the number of reported cases, it’s not because more people are being infected,” said Eugenia James, Galveston County Health District (GCHD) HIV/ STD program manager. “It’s because more people are being tested.”
James said that’s partly because of a statewide push for partner notification and testing, as well as Achieving Together, a state plan to end the HIV epidemic in Texas by 2030.
“This is one of the biggest pushes in the state right now,” James said. “The plan is to reduce HIV exposure, reduce HIV transmission and reduce HIV acquisition, all working to end the HIV epidemic.”
April marks National STD Awareness Month, a time for the Galveston County Health District (GCHD) to highlight testing and prevention services available through its HIV/ STD Services division.
The HIV/ STD Services division protects the health and well-being of the community by educating the public through presentations, health fairs and community events. Staff also investigates STDs and assists individuals in obtaining diagnostic and treatment services, as well as locating and contacting sexual partners of people who have tested positive for HIV/STD.
GCHD’s program also provides outreach services to residents in Brazoria and Chambers counties. Efforts can continue for the partners of partners. Staff also conducts outreach activities including HIV testing parties and condom distribution.
“It is important to know your HIV status,” James said. “When someone is diagnosed, they can then manage the virus with early intervention and treatment.”
The Texas 2017 HIV Surveillance Report also shows there were 47 HIV and 20 AIDS diagnoses in Galveston County during the reporting timeframe. Statewide, the county ranks 13th in HIV diagnoses and 12th in AIDS diagnoses. In comparison, 45 HIV and 19 AIDS diagnoses were reported in the 2016 report, ranking the county 12th and 13th, respectively, in HIV and AIDS diagnoses.
The county reported 1,617 cumulative HIV diagnoses, which accounts for all cases in the county, living or diseased, at HIV or AIDS diagnosis through Dec. 31, 2017, up from 1,566 reported in 2016.
Free HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis testing, condoms and education are available daily through GCHD to any county resident by appointment. All services are private, confidential and free, and can be scheduled by calling 409-465-2528.
“Depending on the type of STD, treatment is available,” James said. “Many can be cured. In some instances, the infection can be controlled, but not cured. It is very important for all infected or exposed sexual partners to be treated before resuming sexual relations.”