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Read the originally published article from the Nevada Current here.

More than 11,000 people in Clark County are living with HIV, and 488 were newly diagnosed in 2022, according to the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD).

In 2019, the most recent year for reliable data, Nevada ranked 5th in the U.S. for new HIV diagnoses, and Clark County was identified as one of the 48 priority jurisdictions in the U.S. targeted for Phase I of America’s Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative. Since 2012, the county has continuously seen an increase in new HIV diagnoses as well as the number of people currently living with HIV, according to the2021-2026 Clark County Ending the HIV Epidemic Plan.

Nevada passed legislation in the 2021 session that required all health care providers to ask if a patient wanted to be tested for STIs including HIV and document that in their charts.

The LGBTQ+ community faces barriers to accessing health care like stigma, discrimination, cost, HIV prevention and treatment, and violence which can worsen health outcomes.

“There’s still so much stigma around HIV and the fear and what you don’t know you fear,” said Bishop Bonnie Radden of Rediner’s Fire Fellowship United Church of Christ Global. “It’s not the way it was years ago, folks don’t have to die.”

Radden led a prayer at The Center, a nonprofit dedicated to the LGBTQ community, on Friday, the 35th World Aids Day.

The stigma in testing and diagnosis can lead to poor mental health, with depression being the most common mental health condition people struggle with, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

“I have celebrated every World AIDS Day that there’s been because I was diagnosed with HIV before there was a World AIDS Day,” said Chris Reynolds, founder of the Southern Nevada Health Consortium.

The Consortium partners with 23 different organizations in Southern Nevada, including The Center, SNHD and UNLV, in efforts to end the HIV/AIDS.

“When I was diagnosed I was told I had 18 months to live and to have a nice day,” Reynolds said. “If someone is diagnosed with HIV today and they get on therapy and they see a doctor, they will live a normal life span. When I was diagnosed there was no medication and now medication is one pill, once a day.”

But medication is costly, especially for those without insurance. Nearly 14% of people with an HIV infection used a prescription drug cost-saving strategy like skipping doses, taking less medication, and delaying filling the prescription. People who do not adhere to medication plans to save on costs are more likely to be hospitalized and less likely to be virally suppressed, according to a 2019 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both The Center and ASP Cares, a specialty pharmacy that Reynolds works at as the director of HIV Prevention Services, offer services to help with the high costs of prescriptions.

Quilt block made by Tari Wyse, American Sewing Guild of Las Vegas, for a Las Vegas Quilt to commemorate World AIDS Day, at The Center, Dec. 1, 2023. (Photo: Camalot Todd/Nevada Current)

The first World AIDS Day was in 1988, which was also when the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt created by gay rights activist Cleve Jones went on a 20-city national tour. Jones was inspired when the names of over 1,000 San Franciscans who had died from the disease were written on placards and taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building during a 1985 march. Jones said that the wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.

At The Center in Las Vegas last week, work began on a Las Vegas AIDS quilt.

“We wanted something just for us to have access, to have a tribute,” said Kiande Jakada, the HIV health educator at The Center. “It’s important to acknowledge those lives that we have lost, it’s important to have a place to come to just remember these individuals, and that’s the idea that birthed this event.”

“Although great strides have been made as far as treatment, we still need more awareness and more education,” Jakada said.

SNHD offers rapid HIV testing options, including home no-cost HIV test kits, through the Collect2Protect program. The kits allow users to test conveniently and privately get their results at home. Test kits for chlamydia and gonorrhea are also available for a fee.

For more information on the HIV testing offered at The Center, visit the nonprofit’s website.