Everything You Didn’t Know About HIV Prevention

A group of friends enjoying life while making their health and self-care a priority with the help of SFCHC healthcare
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Most people, when asked to name methods of HIV prevention, might only be able to come up with one: “Use a condom.”  But there are several ways someone can protect themselves.  It might also surprise people to hear that testing positive for HIV doesn’t mean life is over.  This year, San Fernando Community Health Centers are expanding our HIV services.  We’re your home for comprehensive care, no matter your gender, sexual orientation, or HIV status.

If You Don’t Know Your Status

HIV is a virus that attacks a person’s immune system, leaving them vulnerable to infections and other diseases.  With Los Angeles experiencing record numbers of Covid cases, that’s not a risk anyone can afford to take.  Testing is the only sure way to know if you have HIV, so SFCHC provides testing for it and other sexually transmitted diseases.  To lower your risk of getting HIV, never share needles or syringes.  And of course, always use condoms, which are also freely available at SFCHC.

SFCHC HIV Prevention Program

Learn more about medications + treatments

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If You’re HIV-Negative

HIV-negative people can increase their protection against the disease by using PrEP.  PrEP is a shorter name for pre-exposure prophylaxis, a program of medication that’s up to 99% effective at preventing HIV.  PrEP can be a daily pill, either Truvada or the newer Descovy, both of which are safe and generally well tolerated. Just this December, an injectable form of PrEP, called Cabotegravir, was federally approved for use every two months.  PrEP doesn’t protect against other STDs, and for extra protection, regular condom use is still recommended.  Your SFCHC provider can answer any questions about PrEP and get you started if it’s right for you.

If you’ve had unprotected sex, your protection failed, or you shared a needle, you may have been exposed to HIV.  But there’s hope in PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis.  This month-long program of two to three pills prevents HIV from spreading throughout the body.  When taken as directed, PEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection.  However, it only works if started within 72 hours of exposure, and its effectiveness decreases the longer you wait.  If you think you’re at risk, contact your SFCHC provider as soon as possible.

If You’re HIV-Positive

There is no cure for HIV, but if you’ve tested positive, the providers at SFCHC are here to help.  HIV-positive people can live long, healthy lives through antiretroviral therapy, or ART.  These medications prevent HIV from developing into AIDS and even prevent the virus from passing to sexual partners.  As part of SFCHC’s renewed commitment to ongoing HIV care, we’ll make sure you get the counseling and treatment you need.

Whatever Your Status

SFCHC has always believed that everyone deserves access to quality healthcare.  All methods of HIV prevention are available, and we accept a variety of payment methods.  There’s even an assistance program that provides PrEP to qualified patients at no cost.  With certified pharmacists and experienced providers on staff and an expanding program of education and treatment, it’s a no-brainer: SFCHC knows how to protect your health. For questions concerning testing, medications, or beginning a care plan, contact Dr. Christopher Angara, HIV Program Manager at cangara@sfchealthcenter.org or (818) 963-5690.

Author
Heather Hillstrom

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