The HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Section in the Division of Public Health has a big job – to prevent and treat HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and viral hepatitis in Idaho.
After people get HIV, they have it for life. There is no cure. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.
Somewhat similarly, STDs can be treated with medicine, but unlike HIV, some can be cured entirely. They don’t always cause symptoms or may only cause mild symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it. That is why it is important for people who are sexually active to protect themselves and their partners, and to get tested.
The Department of Health and Welfare’s HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Section is made up of five separate programs that manage and monitor HIV prevention, HIV care, STD prevention, and prevention services related to viral hepatitis in Idaho. The Syringe Exchange Program was added in 2019 after the Idaho Legislature made syringe and needle exchanges legal.
The overarching goal for all these programs is to help Idahoans be as healthy as possible by preventing, treating, and controlling HIV and STDs in the state.
The section works closely with local public health districts, community health centers, federally qualified health centers, and community-based organizations to ensure prevention and care services are available to the Idahoans who need it.
The primary HIV prevention services include HIV testing, counseling, and referral services for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and connection to HIV medical care; condom distribution; and HIV disease investigation services for newly infected people and their partners.
The section also manages services for those diagnosed with HIV, including medical case management, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and support services to enhance access to and retention in HIV medical care and treatment.
STD prevention-related services are offered through partnerships with local public health districts, community health centers, and federally qualified health centers throughout the state. Services include testing and treatment; education and outreach; and disease investigation services for newly diagnosed clients and their partners.
In line with the national emphasis on eliminating hepatitis C, the section has expanded access to hepatitis C screening and testing through a statewide network of partnerships with clinical and community-based organizations.
The section works closely with the Epidemiology Section to monitor HIV and STD trends throughout the state and deploys resources to combat the spread of disease. Rates of HIV and STD fluctuate year to year, but the 2021 rate of syphilis continued a multi-year increase and remains of concern.
The syringe exchange services provide technical assistance to community-based entities supporting syringe and needle exchange activities and implementation guidance, per statute requirements.
I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend!
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.