Know your status: It's National HIV Testing Day
|Author: Shelly Nolloth|
Date: Monday, June 27th, 2011
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Today, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day, which was created by the The National Association of People with AIDS. You can find a testing site near you through the CDC's website hivtest.org.
Many organizations and communities have organized events around the Testing Day. In Houston, Texas, for instance, there's Hip Hop for HIV Awareness - you get a free ticket to a hip hop concert on July 31 when you get tested.
People unaware of their status transmit the majority of new HIV infections, the CDC says. And nearly 17,000 people with AIDS still die every year in the United States.
Who should get tested? According to the organization, nearly everyone:
Everyone who is old enough to be sexually active or do recreational drugs should be tested routinely at regularly scheduled well-patient doctor's visits. How old is old enough? If your 12-year-old is old enough to shave, he's old enough for HIV. If your 11-year-old is old enough for her first bra, so is she.
There are two kinds of HIV tests:
One testsfor antibodies in your blood, which might not show up for three to six months after initial infection. You can get results from this test immediately.
The other is the viral load test, which would tell you if you have the virus even if you were infected very recently. The results from test can take a couple of weeks to come back.
HIV is spread primarily through unprotected sex with an infected person, having multiple sex partners and having other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as sharing needles, syringes and other illicit drug equipment. The virus can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding, says the CDC, although antiretroviral drugs can prevent this form of transmission during birth.
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It's important to protect yourself, but also be aware that HIV cannot spread through air or water, insects, saliva, tears, sweat, shaking hands or closed-mouth kissing (there is a small chance of transmission through "French" kissing if the HIV-infected person's mouth or gums are bleeding).
Many more people in the United States find out their HIV status thanks to government efforts. A new CDC report finds that about 18,000 cases were newly diagnosed through the Expanded HIV Testing Initiative between 2007 and 2010. That program gave funding to 25 health departments for HIV screening, targeting populations disproportionately affected by HIV.
For a broader perspective on the history of HIV in America, check out our features on AIDS in the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, and this timeline.
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