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eugene-mccray-hiresDr. Eugene McCray is the Director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP) at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control. He is responsible for planning and directing national and international research, surveillance, and public health programs related to HIV prevention and control.

Prior to his appointment as Director of DHAP, Dr. McCray was Chief of the International Research and Programs Branch in CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination. He also served as Acting Deputy Director in the Coordinating Office for Global Health at CDC from 2004 to 2007 and was the Director of CDC’s Global AIDS Program from 2000 to 2004.

He is a medical epidemiologist and began his career at the CDC in 1983 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer. He has since served in various capacities throughout CDC.

Dr. McCray completed his clinical training in internal medicine at North Carolina Memorial Hospital, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1983 and an Infectious Diseases Fellowship in 1992 at University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, Washington.

He earned his Medical Degree from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University and his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Morehouse College.

Dr. McCray answers your HIV/AIDS questions below:

What are the early ways to detect HIV?

Some people may experience a flu-like illness within 2-4 weeks after infection, which may include a fever, chills, muscle aches, sore throat or swollen lymph nodes. But some people may not have any symptoms. The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.

We now know that newly diagnosed HIV positive persons who start treatment immediately live longer, healthier lives and dramatically reduce their risk of passing the virus to another person. If you think you have been exposed to HIV through sex or drug use and you have flu-like symptoms, seek medical care and ask for a test to diagnose acute infection.

 My son has HIV. Will he be able to father children?

 Women who are HIV-negative, but have an HIV-positive male partner should talk to their doctor about Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to protect themselves while trying to get pregnant and to protect their baby during pregnancy. PrEP is a daily pill that can help prevent HIV infection and is one of many options to help protect an HIV-negative male or female partner during attempts to conceive.

I get so tired of all these statistics stating that all diseases are higher among African-Americans. Where do they gather their statistics and how many of the other races do they use to compare? Ridiculous! I don’t believe any of it is accurate.

CDC’S National HIV Surveillance System is the primary source for monitoring HIV trends in the United States. CDC funds and assists state and local health departments to collect the information.

Health departments report de-identified data to CDC so that information from around the country can be analyzed to determine who is being affected and why. CDC tracks diagnoses of HIV infection among seven racial and ethnic groups: American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander, white, and multiple races.

I take PrEP and I was wondering will there be more drugs like PrEP without the bad side affects?

PrEP is a powerful and safe prevention tool. When taken daily as directed, PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent. Inconsistent use results in much lower levels of protection.

Some people in clinical studies of PrEP had early side effects such as an upset stomach or loss of appetite, but these were mild and usually went away. You should tell your health care provider if these or other symptoms become severe or don’t go away.

 How effective is oregano oil when combating herpes?

 We are not aware of any research on this issue. CDC’s fact sheet on genital herpes offers information on prevention and treatment.

Dr. Eugene, my nephew was just diagnosed with HIV. He’s 21 and unemployed. Getting meds has become an issue. You mentioned something about a program that provides medications?

 The HIV Treatment Works campaign provides resources and information for people living with HIV. There are several organizations in the link provided that can help you locate HIV providers and services near you.

Please have the doctor explain the process and the high cost of PrEP, so its not assumed one could just go get it. Thanks!

If you think you may be at high risk for HIV, talk to your doctor about PrEP. Many private and state Medicaid plans cover PrEP. Some drug manufacturers also have options for medication assistance. This fact sheet provides some information about whether PrEP may be right for you and your options for receiving it. 

 What does the drug break down in the body?

HIV treatment involves taking medicines that slow the progression of the virus in your body. HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus and the drugs used to treat it are called antiretrovirals (ARV).

These drugs are given in combination with other ARVs, which is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART reduces the amount of virus (or viral load) in your blood and body fluids. ART can keep you healthy for many years and dramatically reduces your chance of transmitting HIV.

 As a male, can you get HIV from having oral sex with a female?

 In general, there’s very little risk of getting HIV from oral sex. But in extremely rare cases, HIV has been transmitted by oral sex – putting the mouth on the penis, vagina, or anus. Though the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is low, several factors may increase that risk, including sores in the mouth or vagina or on the penis, bleeding gums, oral contact with menstrual blood, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

What does the current collected data reflect in terms of HIV in the African-American community? Is the occurrence of HIV increasing or decreasing?

We have made great progress in HIV prevention among African-Americans in recent years. Annual overall HIV diagnoses among African-Americans declined 14 percent from 2010 to 2014, driven by steep declines among African-American women. A new analysis also shows disparity in diagnoses among African-American women compared with Latinas and white women is decreasing. However, there is much more work to be done.

Newly released CDC data show that in 2014, one in five African Americans had progressed to AIDS by the time their infection was diagnosed. The same analysis also shows that once diagnosed, less than half of African-Americans with HIV have achieved viral suppression through care and treatment – that is, the virus is under control and at a level that dramatically reduces the risk of transmission.

The first critical step in ending the African American HIV crisis is to increase HIV testing.  By increasing the proportion of African Americans who know their status, we can ultimately drive down HIV infection in the black community.

PHOTO: Dr. McCray

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