World AIDS Day: A Changing Landscape

World AIDS Day, observed each year on December 1, is an opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV, and to remember those who died from HIV- or AIDS-related complications.

Knowing your HIV status is the first step in preventing HIV.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone get tested at least once in their lifetime.  If a person participates in high-risk behaviors, CDC recommends more frequent testing.  Take a moment to read about HIV Risk and Prevention and consider taking an HIV test as part of your personal commitment to preventing HIV.

People who are HIV negative and people who are HIV positive can both take medications to prevent new HIV infections. Biomedical interventions (using medication to prevent HIV transmission) give us a real opportunity to end the HIV epidemic.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)—Prophylaxis means to prevent the spread of infection or disease.  PrEP is a once-a-day pill that can prevent the transmission of HIV.  Studies have shown that PrEP is over 90% effective in preventing HIV when taken every day.  The CDC also recommends that people on PrEP continue to use condoms for extra protection and to prevent other sexually transmitted infections.  For more information about PrEP, or to find a PrEP provider in your area, visit the Virginia Greater Than AIDS page.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)—PEP is used after a person has a potential exposure to HIV.   PEP can be used after unprotected sex; a condom broke or after a sexual assault.  Health care workers can also use PEP if they have an exposure at work.  PEP is taken for 28 days and must be started within 72 hours of exposure.  The sooner that PEP is started, the better the results are.  For more information on PEP, check out the CDC PEP Fact Sheet, or call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at 800-533-4148.

HIV Treatment—While there is no cure for HIV, taking HIV medications can improve health outcomes and help people living with HIV live a normal lifespan.  CDC recently confirmed that when HIV medications result in viral suppression, HIV is not transmitted to other people through sex.  Viral suppression is when an HIV-positive individual has less than 200 copies of the virus per milliliter of blood, or is undetectable.  Undetectable is a term that means a person’s viral load is at such low levels that the virus may not be detected in their blood.  Being undetectable is not a constant state and if a person stops taking their medications, their viral load will go back up again.

Across three different studies, including thousands of couples and many thousand acts of sex without a condom or PrEP, no HIV transmissions to an HIV-negative partner were observed when the HIV-positive person was virally suppressed.  This means that people who take HIV medications daily as prescribed, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner.   The results of these studies are being promoted through U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaigns across the US to encourage both HIV testing and linkage to and retention in HIV medical care. Feel free to read more about HIV treatment as prevention.

Many have died from HIV- and AIDS-related complications, but with new scientific advances occurring every year, we can change the story of HIV in the United States and Virginia.  Protect yourself and your loved ones by learning about HIV and how to prevent infection.  Talk to your friends or loved ones about the importance of HIV testing and treatment.  Together we can combat the stigma around and educate on HIV, helping to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

The United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Women and girls around the world are subject to violence. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. IPV can be physical, sexual or psychological harm by a current or former partner. In Virginia, 71% of victims of intimate partner homicide were women. If you or someone you know is experiencing partner violence, get help:

  • Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-838-8238
  • The LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-356-6998

Learn more:

What you need to know about Vibrio

Vibrio

Roughly a dozen Vibrio species are known to cause a bacterial disease called vibriosis in humans, with the most common in the United States being V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus, and V. alginolyticus. The Vibrio species that cause vibriosis naturally live in the salt or brackish (i.e., somewhat salty) waters of Virginia’s coastal zone. People with vibriosis become infected by eating raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater. Most infections occur from May through October when water temperatures are warmer.  Vibrio vulnificus, in particular, can cause severe or fatal infections. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, HIV, cancer, and certain stomach disorders are at greater risk of becoming sick with vibriosis and experiencing severe complications.

Remember these helpful tips for preventing Vibrio infection:

  • Eat cooked seafood, which tastes just as delicious!
  • Avoid contact with seawater or preparing raw seafood such as oysters and shrimp if you have an open wound, even if it’s a minor cut or scrape. Or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage.
  • Wash wounds and cuts with soap and clean water if they have been exposed to seawater, raw seafood, or juices from seafood.

Learn more about Vibrio.

Traveling This Fall?

travelers in airportBefore you take off for a getaway, business trip, or family visit, there are some things you should know about Zika. Use these tips to plan ahead:

Before your  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  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  trip:

Tricks and Treats for Having a Food Safe Halloween

Avoid the real horrors of Halloween by learning how to keep you and your family members safe from foodborne illness. Follow these tips to scare away food safety hazards:

  • Remind kids (and adults!) to wash their hands before and after enjoying their Halloween treats.
  • Going trick or treating?
    • Inspect candy before eating. Look for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance, discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers.
    • If your child has a food allergy, check food labels to make sure the allergen is not present.
  • Hosting a Halloween party?
    • Prevent frightful bacteria from multiplying by keeping foods at the right temperature. Don’t keep perishable foods out for more than two hours at room temperature (or 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
    • If you bake Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs. These items may harbor Salmonella, bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Salmonella live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs.
    • Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as coli and Salmonella. Serve products labeled as pasteurized to keep these bacteria from creeping up on you.
    • Say “boo” to bacteria during a bobbing for apples game. Rinse apples and other raw fruits under cool running water, and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

View our My Meal Detective videos to learn how to prevent and report foodborne illness. For more information on general food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:

CDC- Food Safety

FDA- Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents

Fight BAC!- Halloween Food Safety How-To

FoodSafety.gov- Avoid “Nightmares” on Halloween: Food Safety Tips

StateFoodSafety.com- Food Safety Talkabout: Halloween

Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2014, there were 6,471 new cases of breast cancer in Virginia. Every Woman’s Life (EWL) helps low-income, uninsured women between the ages of 18-64 get FREE breast cancer screening. If these tests lead to a cancer diagnosis, successful treatment can increase dramatically with early detection. Find out if you are eligible for EWL, and schedule your annual screening today.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence, also known as intimate partner violence, happens to 37% of US women and almost 31% of US men. Intimate partner violence includes:

  • physical violence,
  • sexual violence,
  • threats of physical or sexual violence,
  • stalking and
  • emotional or psychological abuse

by a current or former intimate partner. This type of violence can happen to anyone, even if you aren’t sexually intimate. It can range from a single episode of violence to severe episodes over many years.

In Virginia there were 124 family and intimate partner homicides, which is 32% of all homicides. Almost 3 out of 4 victims of intimate partner homicide are women.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-838-8238 or the LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline, 1-800-356-6998. If you are not able to call you can text, 804-793-9999. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day October 28

Pills spilling out of pill bottle on blue background. with copy space. Medicine conceptVirginia will participate Saturday, October 28, 2017 in the fourteenth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. If you have unused, expired or unwanted medications, drop them off at a collection site in your area from 10am-2pm, no questions asked. Drop off is free and anonymous. Last year, Virginia collected 22,855 pounds of prescription drugs from over 200 collection sites statewide.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. When you have unused or expired medications lying around, they could fall into the wrong hands and be abused. And flushing medications down the toilet is dangerous to public health. Dropping your medications off at a collection site is a quick and safe way to make sure they are disposed of properly.

Learn more

Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected. Prevent lead poisoning. Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts!

The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. The most important is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely.

Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem.

Visit Lead Safe Virginia to learn more about protecting children from lead exposure and learn more about how VDH protects your drinking water from unsafe lead levels.

A Day Without Water

hands holding coffee cup, black and whiteNeed coffee? Then you need water. On October 12, try to Imagine a Day without Water. Then find out more about the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water, working year-round to help Virginia’s drinking water treatment plants provide clean running water. The mission of the Office of Drinking Water is to protect public health by ensuring that all people in Virginia have access to an adequate supply of clean, safe drinking water that meets federal and state drinking water standards.