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Department of Health Works to Reduce Stigma of HIV, Discusses Health Impacts on Youth

Harrisburg, PA - Today, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine encouraged all Pennsylvanians to be aware of the facts about HIV and discussed the health impacts the virus has on youth affected by it.

“HIV is a serious virus that damages the immune system and without proper medical care, can lead to other serious health complications,” Dr. Levine said. “Stigma and other misconceptions about HIV can negatively affect the health and well-being of youth. It is essential that we continue working to decrease stigma surrounding HIV, so young people can be more active about their health by getting tested and receiving care.”

HIV attacks the body’s immune system so it can no longer fight off infections. If left untreated, a person can develop other serious infections or infection-related cancers. These infections can lead a person to develop AIDS, the most severe and last phase of HIV infection. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically are given a life expectancy of about three years.

“There is no cure for HIV, which is why is it is so important to get tested for the virus,” Dr. Loren Robinson, the department’s Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Deputy Secretary, said. “Early detection and treatment of HIV can control the virus and make it undetectable, leading to a long, healthy life. The latest science shows that people living with HIV who take the proper medication as prescribed, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.”

Only 10 percent of U.S. high school students have ever been tested for HIV and more than 50 percent of youth who have HIV don’t know they have it. One in four new HIV infections are reported among youth ages 13-24, which is why it is so important for individuals to get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Additionally, those with specific risk factors should be screened annually. Anyone can get a free and confidential comprehensive HIV screening at any department-supported testing site.

Some youth do not get tested or treated for HIV due to the stigma surrounding it. Most individuals have negative views about people who are living with HIV and think only certain groups can get it. It is essential that everyone learn the facts about HIV and what it means to live with it so we can decrease the number of new cases of HIV in Pennsylvania and provide the best treatment to those who do have it.

For more information on reducing HIV stigma and getting tested, visit the Department of Health’s website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783 or

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