Today is National HIV Testing Day; Have You Been Tested Lately?

National HIV Testing Day is observed annually on June 27. According to the CDC, the purpose of the day is, “to raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing and early diagnosis of HIV.” The 2017 theme is, “Test Your Way. Do It Today.”

For 22 years, National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) has been observed to encourage people to get tested for HIV and know their status. The first NHTD was observed on June 27, 1995.

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, is a disease that attacks the human immune system’s CD4 cells. The human body needs CD4 cells to fight several infections, illnesses, and even some cancers. The loss of CD4 cells can make a person more vulnerable to diseases. Untreated HIV can damage the immune system and potentially advance to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS.

HIV is spread through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as blood and semen. In the U.S., HIV is most commonly spread through sexual contact or through sharing needles with an infected person. However, HIV cannot be spread through skin-to-skin contact, and it is not airborne. A person will not contract HIV from shaking hands or using the same toilet seat as an infected individual.

According to Healthline.com, the first known cases of HIV were reported in five gay men in 1981. During the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic, it was commonly misconceived that gay men and heroin users were the only groups at risk for the disease. However, later research indicated that anyone could potentially contract HIV regardless of gender, age, race, or sexual orientation.

Today, over 1 million Americans have HIV/AIDS. Approximately 180,000 people are unaware that they are living with the disease. 636,000 Americans diagnosed with HIV/AIDS have died from the disease or related complications.

Although HIV/AIDS is a very serious disease, increases in medical advancements and research has led to substantial improvements. According to HIV.gov, annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. declined 18% between 2008-2014. Additionally, the life expectancy rates for HIV-positive individuals have increased drastically. The current life expectancy is currently about 70 years.

Black women have the highest HIV/AIDS rate among women, yet the number of Black women diagnosed with HIV fell 42 percent between 2005-2014. Antiretroviral therapy and other medications make living with HIV possible. There are many stories of women who continue to thrive despite being HIV positive.

Early detection is essential for survival. National HIV Testing Day helps save lives by encouraging people to get tested and know their status. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Whitman-Walker Health, and the DC Health and Wellness Center are just a few organizations in the District of Columbia that provide HIV testing and counseling. Additional sites can be found here.

  • Contributed by Sydney Williams

WHUR Contributor


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