HIV, HCV and Harm Reduction
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus):
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) weakens a person’s immune system by destroying cells used to fight disease and infection.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid, breastmilk and blood.
While there is no cure for HIV, it can be controlled with proper medications. HIV becomes undetectable by using medications to reduce the amount of virus in someone’s blood (viral load). When HIV’s viral load is low it can be no longer transmitted.
Hep C (hepatitis C, HCV):
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
HCV is transmitted through contact with blood from an infected person.
HCV is curable with antiviral medication intended to clear the virus from the body. However, one in four people clear the virus with no treatment at all.
Harm reduction: reducing the risk of HIV and HCV
Both HIV and HCV are generally spread through sexual contact or injection drug use. People who use drugs, face higher rates of HIV and HCV than people who do not. Many people who live with both HIV and HCV, can be treated for both viruses at the same time.
To reduce the spread of HIV and HCV, public health officials use harm reduction tools. Harm reduction tools are strategies used to prevent drug-related deaths by offering healthcare, social services and treatment.
Points West Syringe Service Program offers free, confidential and nonjudgmental HIV and HCV testing. The importance of know your status can help decrease the spread of disease, as well as give you the power and control over your health. Points West offers a variety of prevention tools, and if needed, can help connect individuals to accessible, stigma-free medical care.
Please note: if you already know you are living with HIV or HCV and need help finding HIV or HCV treatment or support services, you can talk to a Points West team member at 303-239-7078 to make an appointment with the clinic.