National HIV Testing Day is June 27th. On this annual observance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get into treatment right away if they have HIV. The theme is #DoingItMyWay, a call to action for people to get tested in a way they feel comfortable in a health care setting, or even at home.
Community Health Centers have been in the business of HIV detection and care for a long time and are a key entry point for people at risk for the virus. They care for 16 percent of people living with an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. and 22 percent of all people with HIV who are receiving HIV-related care. The Trump Administration has assigned health centers a leading role in the national effort to fight HIV/AIDS as part of an initiative rolled out earlier this year which aims to reduce new infections by 75 percent in the next 5 years and by 90 percent in the next 10 years, averting more than 250,000 HIV infections (see HRSA Press Release).
Health centers have significantly ramped up HIV testing over the years – from 231,000 tests in 2000 to over 1.8 million in 2017. That’s an increase of 682 percent in the number of patients being tested. Many health centers also provide HIV prevention services, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) for people at high risk of acquiring HIV. Studies show daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent.
Where ever you decided to get tested, know that early detection is critical to staying healthy, getting treatment and reducing the risk of transmitting HIV to others. An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States have HIV, including about 162,500 people who are unaware of their status, according to the CDC. Nearly 40 percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know they have the virus. People with HIV who are aware of their status can get HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) and remain healthy for many years. Studies show that the sooner people start treatment after diagnosis, the more they benefit from ART.
For those with questions about HIV Testing, check out the CDC’s HIV Testing Basics page. If you’re looking for a place to get tested find a health center near you.