When the first test for HIV became available in 1985, it was known how HIV was spread, but not how to treat it. Thirty years later, there are now three dozen medications to treat HIV. People at high risk for HIV infection can take 1 pill a day to prevent getting HIV. It is called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. For people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Learn about PrEP effectiveness at Virginia > AIDS Let’s talk About PrEP.
Getting an HIV test has never been more important. Most new HIV infections occur among persons who are unaware of their HIV status. Early detection of HIV is crucial for HIV-positive persons to remain in good health. For this reason, the CDC recommends that anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested at least once in their lifetime. CDC recommends those that may be at higher risk get tested more often. A general rule for those with any risk factors is to get tested at least once a year.
Learn about HIV testing options in Virginia. Virginia locations offer both free and low-cost options with results ready in as little as one minute. In recognition of National HIV Testing Day on June 27th, take some time out of your day to get your test for HIV. Feel free to use the testing locator on this page to find a testing location near you. Together, we can all do our part to end the HIV epidemic in Virginia.
In Virginia, the leading causes of death for men are cancer and heart disease. Virginians can take action by encouraging men and boys to make health a priority.
Men can become healthier by making healthy choices daily. Some steps to becoming healthier include:
- Going to annual doctor’s appointments and screenings.
- Quitting all tobacco use.
- Wearing sunscreen when outdoors.
- Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
- Exercising at least 30 minutes every day.
- Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables .
These are just a few of the things that men and boys can do to stay healthy. During this men’s health month encourage the men in your life to make a promise to eat healthy, be active and go to regular checkups and screenings.
Before you take off for a Spring getaway, business trip, or family visit, there are some things you should know about Zika. Use these tips to plan ahead:
Before your Summer trip:
- If you are pregnant, do not travel to an area with Zika. If you or your partner are trying to get pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before traveling to an area with Zika.
- Check the latest travel recommendations from the CDC
During your Spring trip:
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites
- Keep mosquitoes outside by staying in places with air-conditioning and windows and doors, or use a bed net
After your Spring trip:
Sunscreen is a proven way to protect yourself against sunburns and skin cancer. Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection. Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, and toweling off.
As the weather warms up and you plan on spending more time outdoors be sure to keep the bugs away while you play! Ticks and Mosquitoes can make you sick. They can carry illnesses like Lyme disease, West Nile and Zika. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents to keep you and your family safe this summer.
EMS Week in Virginia, May 21-27, honors EMS responders’ commitment to providing lifesaving services. EMS for Children Day, May 24, focuses on raising awareness of specialized care for pediatric patients. Last year, EMS providers responded to nearly 1.5 million calls for help in Virginia, approximately 4,063 incidents per day.
Many EMS agencies across the state will host community activities, including first aid classes, health and safety fairs, open houses, fundraising dinners and more. These family-friendly events welcome everyone to come out and get to know the first responders in their neighborhoods.
To learn more about the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of EMS, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/emergency-medical-services/.
This time of year marks the unofficial start of summer with the opening of pools and water parks. As water temperatures rise, so do visits to Virginia’s beaches, lakes and rivers. Healthy and Safe Swimming Week focuses on the steps everyone can take to have a healthy and safe swimming experience.
In the pool:
- Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
- Practice proper personal hygiene.
- Don’t swallow the water.
- Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
- Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
- Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
- Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
- NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.
In natural waters:
- Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
- All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
- Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
- Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
- Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
- If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
- Shower with soap and water before and after swimming.
- Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
- Report harmful algal blooms or large groups of dead fish to the HAB Hotline at:
It is also important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:
- Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
- Use life jackets.
- Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
- Know CPR. Find a class near you.
- Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
- Use locks or alarms for pool access points.
To learn more about staying safe in pools and natural waters, visit swimhealthyva.com.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, which means that many Virginians will be taking out their grills and spending more time outdoors. Follow these tips for your Memorial Day cookout for safe and enjoyable outdoor cooking all summer long!
Bringing perishable or raw foods to a picnic or cookout?
Bacteria grows faster in warm temperatures. Be sure that these foods don’t spend more than:
- one hour sitting out when the temperature is above 90˚F or
- two hours when temperatures are below 90˚F.
Use an insulated cooler to help keep foods colds. Foods that need to be kept cold include:
- raw meat, poultry, and seafood;
- deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches;
- summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood);
- cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
To help keep your food cooler for longer:
- keep your cooler full,
- place the cooler in the shade, and
- avoid opening the cooler.
Cooking on a grill?
Keep your food safe by remembering these four steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
- Clean: Start with clean surfaces and clean hands.
- Separate: Keep raw meat and poultry separate from your veggies. Keep cooked foods away to avoid potential cross-contamination.
- Cook: Your food thermometer is your grill’s most important tool! Check the temperature of your meats, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods before taking them off the grill to make sure they have reached a safe internal temperature.
- Chill: Bacteria grow most rapidly in the temperature “danger zone,” between 40°F and 140°F. It’s essential to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept on the grill and cold foods can always be chilled with packs of ice or in a cooler.
Also, be sure to check out My Meal Detective for short videos on all four of these steps and learn how to prevent foodborne illness.
For more information on general and summer food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:
National Volunteer Week is a great time to learn more about the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (Va MRC). The Va MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the community in the event of a public health emergency. Each of the 27 local MRC units is comprised of teams of medical and public health professionals who, along with interested community members, volunteer their skills, expertise and time to support ongoing public health initiatives and assist during emergencies throughout Virginia. Learn more and sign up to volunteer through the Virginia Volunteer Health System.
All adults can benefit from thinking about what their health care choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves. These decisions can be written down in an advance directive so that others know what they are. VDH provides a free, secure tool to store end of life documents that protect your legal rights and ensure your medical wishes are honored if you are unable to manage your own care. Visit the Advance Health Care Directive Registry to get started.