The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing for everyone at least once as a part of routine healthcare, and for high-risk groups more often.
This year marks the 19th annual National HIV Testing Day, a time to promote one of the best tools for HIV prevention. Too many people don’t know they have HIV; more than 1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, but 1 in 5 don’t know they are infected.
In April 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released HIV testing recommendations that everyone aged 15 to 65 should be screened for HIV infection; teens younger than age 15 and adults older than 65 also should be screened if they are at increased risk for HIV infection; and all pregnant women, including women in labor who do not know if they are infected with HIV, should be screened for HIV infection. CDC recommends an HIV test once a year for people at increased risk—such as gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs, or people with multiple sex partners. CDC data suggests that sexually active gay and bisexual men might benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months) Regular testing allows people who have HIV to know their status, get life-saving treatment and care, and prevent HIV transmission to others.
It’s easy to get tested. Ask your doctor for a test, or find a nearby testing site through National HIV and STD Testing Resources. Home test kits are also available. Two FDA-approved tests are available online or from drugstores: a rapid testing kit that provides results in 20 minutes using a swab of oral fluid from your gums, and a kit that involves collecting a finger stick blood sample and sending it to a licensed laboratory, then calling in later for results. In both cases, testing is anonymous, and the manufacturer provides confidential counseling and referral to care.
When you know your status, you can take care of yourself. If you find out that you are infected with HIV (if you test positive), you can seek medical care and get treatment, which helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and also lowers the chances of passing HIV to others.
If you don’t have HIV (if you test negative), take steps to stay negative. Remember that if you have unprotected sex or share needles for drug use after your test, you need to get tested again to make sure you are still HIV-negative. Your HIV test result “expires” every time you have risky sex or share needles or related works.
Knowing your HIV status is empowering. When you know your status, you can take care of yourself.
The CDC continues to work with federal, state, and local partners to expand routine HIV testing—not just on National HIV Testing Day but all year long. In 2010, CDC implemented new phases of its successful Expanded Testing Initiative, funding 30 health departments to focus on increasing HIV testing among African Americans and Latinos as well as gay and bisexual men and injection drug users of all races and ethnicities. The men who have sex with men (MSM) Testing Initiative will identify MSM with HIV who were previously unaware of their infection and link them to HIV medical care.
CDC’s Act Against AIDS (AAA) campaigns work to further expand HIV testing, raise awareness about HIV and AIDS among all Americans, and reduce the risk of infection among the hardest-hit populations.
- Reasons/Razones, the newest AAA campaign, promotes HIV testing among gay and bisexual Latino men.
- Let’s Stop HIV Together, a general-awareness AAA campaign to reduce stigma, urges everyone to “get the facts, get tested, and get involved.”
- Testing Makes Us Stronger encourages African American gay and bisexual men to get tested for HIV.
- Take Charge. Take the Test. encourages African American women to get tested for HIV.
On this National HIV Testing Day and throughout the year, people can:
- Get tested for HIV. Ask your doctor for a test, check National HIV and STD Testing Resources for a nearby testing site, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, text your ZIP code to “KNOW IT” (566948), or use one of the home testing kits.
- Get tested once a year or more often if you have multiple sex partners, inject drugs, or are a man who has sex with other men.
- Lower your risk for getting HIV by having sex with only one partner whom you know is not infected, or using a condom every time you have anal, vaginal or oral sex.
- If you have HIV, get medical care as soon as possible to stay healthier longer and to keep from passing the virus to others.
Healthcare providers can:
- Offer patients HIV tests as a routine part of their healthcare.
- Test women for HIV each time they are pregnant.
- Connect people at high risk for HIV to services that help them lower their risk and prevent them from getting infected.
- Make sure people who have HIV get treatment and the services they need to stay healthy and lower their risk of passing the virus to others.
Download materials for healthcare providers from CDC’s Act Against AIDS website.
State and local health departments can:
- Coordinate National HIV Testing Day awareness and testing events to help prevent the spread of HIV and build a local network that responds year-round to the epidemic.
- Create programs and adopt policies to get people at high risk tested early and often. Make sure that those who have a positive test get care quickly.
- Provide services such as medical care, social services, and programs shown to change behavior and lower risk to people at risk for HIV and those living with HIV.
- Promote and use national referral systems for places to get tested, such as National HIV and STD Testing Resources.
- Use CDC’s Act Against AIDS materials to promote HIV testing in target populations.
A Twitter chat with CDC director Thomas Frieden will take place on June 27, 2013, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.. ET. Use #CDCchat.