Today, almost all people across the country are encouraged to do something that may seem scary, but could save lives: Get tested for HIV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AIDS.gov and other national and local entities across the country have recognized June 27 as National HIV Testing Day, an annual campaign to encourage people of all ages to “Take the Test, Take Control.”
Why is it so important to have an annual day set aside to recognize HIV testing?
“As a result, this group continues to pass the virus on to others, which has significant public health issues,” Schacker said. “There’s also growing recognition that earlier treatment translates into a better clinical outcome and drug toxicity isn’t as much of an issue as it was even just a few years ago.”
According to the CDC, that large number of people in the U.S. living with HIV is tipping 1.1 million and almost 20 percent of them are unaware they are infected.
Who should get tested?
Almost everyone. In 2006 the CDC revised their recommendations for testing to include all adults, adolescents, and pregnant women.
“This was a significant departure from their previous recommendation to focus only on those at high risk,” said Shacker. “The rationale was because so many people in the U.S. who are HIV infected are unaware of their infection.”
Who is most at risk for contracting HIV?
“In the U.S., the groups at highest risk remain men who have sex with men (MSM) and injection drug users. We are now seeing an increase in new infections among young gay men,” said Shacker.
In 2010 the CDC reported MSM accounted for 78 percent of the new HIV infections among men. Comparing 2008 to 2010, the estimated number of new HIV infections among MSM increased 12 percent – mostly among MSM aged 13-24.
Shockingly, in the United Sates there has been no real change in the number of new infections each year. Although the HIV/AIDs epidemic is no longer making headlines they way it did in the 1980s and 1990s, every year for the last decade approximately 56,000 new infections occur in the United States.
“While this statistic argues that prevention efforts in the U.S. have not been particularly successful, developing countries have had significant success at prevention,” said Shacker. “An argument could be made that the places with the most success at HIV prevention offer a combined message about the use of condoms, the importance of monogamy.”
The cold hard truth is there is no way to tell if a person is infected with HIV if he or she isn’t tested. To find the testing location nearest you, enter your zip code in the box below.
Take the Test, Take Control.