Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Why Should You Get An HIV Test? National HIV Testing Day

Note: Yesterday President Obama issued a statement on National HIV Testing Day

Thirty years ago, at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there was no test for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. For many, there was only the long and worrisome wait for the signs of infection. Once those signs appeared, no treatment for the virus was available. I personally cared for many, many patients in this era, and I am thankful that those days are over. Today, HIV testing is accurate, widely available, and often free—and treatment can help people living with HIV enjoy long, healthy lives, especially when they get diagnosed early.

The good news is that more people are being tested for HIV than ever before. It is estimated that almost 83 million American adults between 18 and 64 have been tested for HIV, as of 2009. That’s an increase of more than 11 million from 2006 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that HIV testing become a routine part of medical care for adults and adolescents.

However, more than half of American adults still have never taken an HIV test. That’s why we need to spread that message that HIV testing saves lives and why June 27th, National HIV Testing Day, is an important reminder for us to reach as many people as possible with this life-saving information.  Founded by the National Association of People with AIDS, National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) focuses on promoting HIV testing and early diagnosis of HIV across the United States.  The day’s theme “Take the Test. Take Control.”  emphasizes that knowing one’s HIV status – whether it’s positive or negative – is empowering.

Research shows that once people get tested, those who are HIV positive take steps to protect their partners from HIV.  Testing HIV negative is also beneficial – as it empowers individuals to take stock of – and modify – risky sexual behaviors so that they can remain HIV negative.

If you are HIV positive – what you don’t know CAN hurt you – and others. A third of those with HIV are tested very late and develop AIDS within a year of their HIV diagnosis, which may be too late to utilize the full benefits of treatment.  Approximately 17,000 Americans with AIDS still die each year. Too many new HIV infections in the United States occur because people who don’t know they are HIV infected transmit the virus to others.

HIV testing is a significant part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), the nation’s first-ever comprehensive coordinated HIV/AIDS plan. This plan focuses on reducing infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

The federal government continues to make investments to provide HIV testing to those at risk for HIV. CDC initiated the Expanded Testing Initiative in October 2007. Findings from the Initiative were published last week in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The $111 million effort provided funding for health departments in 25 of the nation’s hardest-hit areas. As a result of these efforts, CDC-supported health departments were able to offer 2.8 million HIV tests in just three years.

As a result of the Expanded Testing Initiative, more than 18,000 Americans living with HIV learned their HIV status for the first time. Approximately three-quarters of the individuals who were newly diagnosed were successfully linked to HIV care, of those for whom follow up data were available. Increasing HIV testing is among our country’s top health priorities as testing not only saves lives, it saves resources.  Each HIV infection averted saves an estimated $367,000 (2009 dollars) in lifetime medical costs.

On the 17th annual National HIV Testing Day, we thank the many, many individuals, organizations, and agencies who are taking action to make sure everyone knows that HIV testing is an important step in stopping HIV infections and creating health for our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors.

To locate an HIV testing site near you, text your Zip Code to “KNOWIT” (566948), visit www.HIVtest.org, or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). To find local HIV resources, including testing, housing, and substance abuse treatment, family planning, and mental health services, visit the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Services Provider Locator tool.

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH is the Director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*This blog post was originally published at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »