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Three Decades Later: Where Is AIDS/HIV In Nevada?

Some 36 years after the first person died from AIDS in Nevada, the lifestyle for those infected with HIV, and their futures, has changed dramatically.

Kyle Matthews was diagnosed with the virus in 2016 but he controls it with one pill a day.

"My life it's every day," he said, "It doesn't affect me at all."

When he was first diagnosed, Matthews said one of the biggest struggles was finding the money to pay for the medications, which cost $5,700 a month and he didn't have health insurance at the time.

And while troubling, getting a diagnosis of HIV is not the death sentence it was when the disease was first detected in 80s.

"That's what I've been doing for the past three years is really working on myself physically, emotionally, so now I can say this is easy for me. This now my lifestyle," he said. 


Matthews is really the new face of HIV-AIDS. Very few people die now from complications from the disease, said Christina Madison, an associate professor of pharmacy at Roseman University.

Madison was training when the epidemic was in full swing. She remembers being told by an instructor to not get to attached to patients in the HIV ward at University Medical Center because it was likely they wouldn't be there very long.

Now, that ward has closed and people diagnosed with HIV can have the same lifespan as those who are negative.

"I've been working with those affected and infected with a positive status for about 15 years and the comparison - it just isn't there. It's apples to oranges," she said.

She also noted that the so-called drug cocktail, a mix of dozens of drugs that had to be taken multiple times a day, which first gave HIV patients a chance to survive has been replaced with a two-drug combination that is taken in one pill every day.

Despite the remarkable progress made since the early days of the epidemic, health care professionals are concerned about a number of counties around the country that are seeing a rise in new diagnoses and Clark County is one of them.

Madison said because of the rise in new cases the Centers for Disease Control has designated Clark County as being at risk for an HIV epidemic.

"That is why Nevada is now a fast-track state and that's initiative to reduce the new number of cases dramatically within the next five and 10 years."

She said the initiative was set out by the Trump administration and it provides funding for education, testing, prevention and getting more people who are positive into treatment.

"When we engage as a community and we make that effort from a legislative standpoint as well as we put that monetary amount and financial need as part of the effort then we're hopefully going to see some movement in those new cases," she said.

Madison said people knowing their status and getting early treatment if they are positive is vital to stopping the spread of the disease because when treated early the virus can become undetectable. When it reaches that level, there is a zero chance of them passing the virus to another person.

She said treating someone who is positive early, getting people at risk for exposure on preventative medication and offering medication to people after they've been exposed are part of a continuum of care that is needed to address HIV-AIDS until they reach the ultimate goal of curing the disease completely.


HIV/STD Testing Southern Nevada Health District

HIV Testing

Get Tested CDC

Aid for AIDS of Nevada

Kyle Matthews, patient; Christina Madison, associate professor of pharmacy, Roseman University; HIV/AIDS expert

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.