Today is National HIV Testing Day, an annual observance started by the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) in 1995 to remind people of the importance of getting tested for HIV. The tag line for this year’s event is “Take the Test, Take Control.” In honor of the event, state and local health departments as well as other health care providers across the country are offering free testing services.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five individuals living with HIV does not know his/her status. It is important for individuals to know their own status in order to get the treatment they need. In his statement today, Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention points out that: “Effective HIV treatments now allow people living with HIV to live long, productive lives, yet nearly 17,000 people with AIDS still die every year in the United States.”
Testing, however, is equally important for prevention efforts as well. For one thing, people with HIV who are on drug therapies are significantly less likely to pass their virus on to others than people with HIV who are not in treatment. Fenton explains that: “The majority of the estimated 56,000 new HIV infections that occur each year are transmitted by those who are unaware of their infection." In its press release on the event, NAPWA states: “Test-and-treat is not the whole answer to ending the epidemic, but it's an indispensable first step.”
President Obama also released a statement today. It read in part:
“National HIV Testing Day reminds each of us to do our part in fighting HIV/AIDS and get tested. It has been 30 years since we witnessed the emergence of HIV, an illness from which roughly 600,000 Americans have died and with which more than one million Americans live. After years of critical investments in research, prevention and care, we now have the tools to stem the spread of the disease and extend the lives of those Americans living with HIV.”
He went on to point to the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States which was released by his Administration last summer and commits the nation to reducing new infections and increasing access to care. Obama concluded:
All of us have a responsibility to ourselves and those around us to know our status and reduce our risk. So on this National HIV Testing Day and every day, I encourage every American to join the fight against HIV/AIDS and get tested.
To find local HIV testing near you visit HIVtest.org or send a text message with your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948).