Monday, August 9, 2010

Not National HIV Testing Day

Today is not National HIV Testing Day.

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is June 27 each year, so it was just over a month ago. The point, however, is to raise awareness and promote early diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. It's not meant to limit testing to a single day but instead make people realize how important it is to do regularly, which is why it's being mentioned here more than a month later.

NHTD was founded by the National Association of People with AIDS in 1995. The LGBT community is still disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, so it's more important to emphasize getting tested early and often.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in five of the 1.1 million people in the United States estimated to be living with HIV are not aware of their status. In the new cases of HIV, over half are attributed to people who do not know their HIV status.

The latest CDC data shows a large increase in new diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) and African Americans. HIV disproportionately affects MSM, blacks folks, and Hispanics/Latinos, but MSM are the only risk group with increasing annual numbers of new HIV infections.

“Take the Test, Take Control” was this year's theme for NHTD. Being aware of your HIV/AIDS status puts you in control of your health and reduces the risk to others. Just the idea of getting tested may be scary and difficult, but fear of the results should never outweigh the importance of knowing.

HIV is not immediately detectable, so regular testing is essential. It can take from three weeks to three months for HIV antibodies to be detectable by the most common rapid tests. This period may be as long as six months. A newly infected person could still spread HIV, though, so regular testing and safe sex practices are vital to HIV prevention.

For the CDC's FAQ on HIV/AIDS and getting tested, go here.

To find an HIV testing location near you, visit

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