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Facing a HIV diagnosis early can help reduce the risk of transmission

Posted at 11:30 PM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 23:30:01-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It''s no secret: early detection helps to save lives.

But, a new study further proving that early treatment can help to save lives and stop the spread of the virus.

Marissa Gonzalez is pretty well-known in Southwest Florida, as someone who is always doing something to benefit the community.

She's also become known for her fight.

"I was diagnosed back in 2016 as HIV Positive," she says she was shocked by the advice others familiar with the virus gave her.

"They'd be like 'oh it's not different from diabetes', and I'd be like 'Are you crazy?", she says.

She says getting help right away helped her to realize that she could continue to live her life.

"I'm still healthy, I can still travel. I can still do things, without any limitation."

A new study was released last week by the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases. It says that during a clinical study, 86% of people who entered HIV care soon after diagnosis maintained viral suppression.

Yuri Velasquez is a Health Educator, Prevention & Training Consultant for the Florida Department of Health explains just what that means.

“As soon as you are virally suppressed -meaning that you are suppressing the virus. You are controlling the virus…you will not be able to transmit the virus," Velasquez tells FOX 4.

He says the research speaks to the importance of immediate treatment right after diagnosis. He says the state uses a program called "Test and Treat". That programs provides specialized care that treats new infections. Those specialists refer patients to local programs that can further provide support and assistance.

"As soon as you're diagnosed with HIV, we're going to provide treatment - meaning we are going to give you medications to prevent the replication or the multiplication of the virus in your body."

For some people, Yuri says there's one major setback.

“Alot of people refuse care because of the fear of the cost.”

But, he says there are programs that can help those who may be uninsured or underinsured.

Programs like the Ryan White Comprehensive Aids Resources Emergency Act which provides governmental aid for underserved people living with HIV/AIDS.

Marissa says she always wants to be honest.

"It sucks."

But, she says, seeking immediate treatment helped her to live a more normal life.

“It’s literally just a pill a day…no different.”