Information is power: the benefits of knowing your status

June 18, 2024

When Dani Rodriguez came to Venice Family Clinic for care in 2023, her HIV status was the last thing on her mind.

Rodriguez was twenty seven days sober when she returned to Los Angeles from Arizona. She knew she needed support to maintain her progress. “I heard that Venice Family Clinic helped people in need,” says Rodriguez. “I made an appointment as soon as I could.” Working with our substance use treatment (SUMMIT) team, Rodriguez got a prescription for sublocade, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder and support sobriety. As her situation began to stabilize, Rodriguez’s clinician ordered a comprehensive set of tests to get a clearer picture of her overall health.

Rodriguez wasn’t concerned the tests would uncover anything serious. When her clinician informed her of her HIV positive status, she was hit by a wave of shock. “I felt like the world stopped spinning,” recalls Rodriguez as she remembers the feeling of hopelessness that threatened to overwhelm her. “I thought, this is it. This is the end of everything.”

The earlier the better

It isn’t uncommon for people to be unaware of their HIV status. According to the CDC, approximately 165,000 people in the United States are HIV positive but don’t know it.

“Frequent testing is such an important tool, because information is power when it comes to HIV,” says Julie Garcia, case management supervisor at Common Ground, a program at Venice Family Clinic that provides care for people living with HIV. “Early detection means early treatment, and that’s the best way to ensure a positive outcome.”

Starting treatment as soon as possible is extremely important. It not only prevents the progression of the virus but also helps people achieve viral suppression. This means that, despite being HIV positive, their viral load is so low it cannot be detected through testing. “If someone is undetectable, they can’t transmit the virus to others,” explains Garcia. “Viral suppression is the best way for people with a positive status to protect themselves and others.”

Today, there is no such thing as too late for people living with HIV. When people get consistent care and take a proactive approach to managing their health, HIV is a readily treatable condition.

A bright future

Tears fill Rodriguez’s eyes as she remembers how she was welcomed by Common Ground’s care team the same day she received her diagnosis. “They welcomed me with open arms and took care of everything,” she remembers with a smile. “I felt unconditionally supported.”

Thanks to the dedication and efficiency of her care team, Rodriguez achieved viral suppression just thirty short days after discovering her positive status.

“I think people avoid getting tested because they think that a positive result will be the end of their life,” says Rodriguez. “But I’m here to tell you, that’s not the case. My diagnosis wasn’t the end – it was the beginning. Working with everyone at Venice Family Clinic, I’ve taken control of my life. I have my confidence back. I have a future again.”

Learn about our Common Ground program or visit the CDC’s website to find HIV testing locations anywhere in the country and take control of your health today.