This year marks the 20th annual National HIV Testing Day, a time to promote one of our best tools for HIV prevention. Too many people-one in six-who are living with HIV are not aware of it. That means they are not getting the treatment they need to stay healthy and may pass the virus on to others without knowing it.
HIV can be spread when someone with HIV has sex or shares injection drug equipment with someone who does not have HIV. If the partner with HIV is on medicine to treat HIV (antiretroviral therapy, or ART), or the partner who is HIV-negative is on medicine to prevent HIV infection (pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP), the risk can be much lower.
The Centers for Diseae Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that some people with risk factors get tested more often. Gay and bisexual men, people with more than one sex partner, people with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and people who inject drugs are at high risk and should get tested at least once a year.
You should also be tested if you have been sexually assaulted or if you are a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
When you know your HIV status, you can take care of yourself and your partner(s). If you find out that you are infected with HIV (if you test positive), you can seek medical care and get treatment. Besides allowing you to live a longer, healthier life, being on ART can protect the health of your partners because it can greatly reduce the risk that you can pass HIV to others.
If you don't have HIV (if you test negative), you can take steps to stay negative, such as using condoms consistently and asking your healthcare provider about PrEP if you are at substantial risk. Remember that if you have risky sex or share needles for drug use after you've tested negative for HIV, 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.
Getting tested for HIV is easier than ever. You can ask your doctor for a test, check National HIV and STD Testing Resources for a nearby testing site, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to "KNOW IT" (566948). Health insurance usually covers the test, and some sites offer free testing. You can also use one of the FDA-approved home testing kits.
What You Can Do:
•Get tested at least once for HIV.
•Get tested once a year or more often if you are at risk of getting HIV.
•Lower your risk of getting HIV by using condoms, using PrEP if appropriate, limiting your number of partners, choosing less risky sexual behaviors, and getting checked for STDs, which can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
•If you have HIV, get medical care and treatment as soon as possible to stay healthier longer and lower your risk of passing the virus to others.
Healthcare providers can:
•Offer patients HIV tests as a routine part of their healthcare, as recommended by CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service.
•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.
•Work to ensure your patients 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.
For more resources, CLICK HERE.