WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A research team reported in February they possibly cured HIV in a woman for the first time.
She now joins a group of three men who scientists have cured or likely cured of HIV. Research, knowledge and the stigma surrounding AIDS have come a long way since the epidemic of the 1980s.
Yet, leaders from Positive Directions in Wichita say there’s still work to be done. The Bensons, a husband and wife staying at Human Kind, were part of the testing event hosted by Positive Directions.
For Wilma Benson, she said she wasn’t worried about the results because of the medication available.
Brett Hogan, executive director for Positive Directions, says HIV medications have come a long way.
“Just a couple pills, go live your life.”
“The U equals U, undetectable equals untransmittable, literally you can be HIV positive and have unprotected sex and not pass on HIV. With PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis program, it’s like birth control but for HIV. Take it daily, your risk for contracting … just that much less,” said Hogan.
Despite treatment and preventative options, Hogan says HIV is still a taboo topic.
“Stigma, misinformation, miseducation, just lack of education,” said Hogan.
Positive Directions is working to change that by holding testing events, checking people for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C. Along with educating people in the process.
Hogan says there are specific groups considered “priority populations” he describes them as:
- MSM: Men who have sex with men.
- “Youth” generally categorized between 18-25.
- African American Women; women in general.
- IDU: Injection Drug Users
If a test comes back positive, the next steps are to get a blood draw to confirm. Then, state and county resources take over from there.
For those nervous about getting tested, Wilma says, “tell them not to be afraid [of being tested] because I know they’ve got medicine or that.”
For those who do receive a positive test result, “it’s not life-ending, it’s life-changing,” said Hogan.
For Wilma and her husband, they both received negative HIV rapid test results.
All of the testing is free. People can also make an appointment to be tested at the Positive Directions location, at 154 N. Topeka in Wichita. The number to call is (316) 263-2214.
Three ways to get involved or Support Positive Directions:
Three ways to support: