Today is National HIV Testing Day—a day to promote HIV-testing and early diagnosis of HIV across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Approximately one in five of those are unaware of their infections. Early testing and diagnosis is critical so individuals with HIV can access effective life-extending treatment, prevent the spread of HIV to partners, and have a better quality of life.
HIV Testing is a key part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which was released by the White House almost a year ago. Increasing HIV testing is among our country’s top health priorities as testing saves lives and resources. Each HIV infection averted saves an estimated $367,000 (2009 dollars) in lifetime medical costs.
When AIDS was first recognized 30 years ago, we did not have the range of tools – prevention strategies, tests, biomedical interventions, and treatments—that we have today. Together these can end the epidemic in the United States, if we all pull together now to make sure these tools reach those who need them. That is why HHS has made key investments into HIV testing programs, including CDC’s Expanded Testing Initiative. This $111 million, three-year effort took place from October 2007 and September 2010. As a result of these efforts, CDC was able to provide almost 3 million HIV tests in 25 of the nation’s hardest-hit areas. Nearly 20,000 Americans living with HIV learned their HIV status for the first time. Approximately three-quarters of the newly diagnosed individuals for whom follow up data was available were successfully linked to HIV care.
To build on the Expanded Testing Initiative’s success, in October 2010 CDC expanded the focus and funding of the program, based on preliminary results of the first effort. CDC now provides funding for testing services in 30 jurisdictions (up from 25) with a high burden of HIV. The current goal for the program is to reach populations heavily affected by HIV, including African Americans, Latinos, gay and bisexual men, and injection drug users.
For National HIV Testing Day, CDC has worked closely with national partners to increase the availability of HIV testing. Just last week, CDC provided technical support and guidance to an innovative partnership that brought together Walgreens , the Greater Than AIDS campaign, and Ebony magazine to provide free rapid oral HIV testing from June 22 to 24 at Walgreens stores in heavily affected areas. Specifically, the HIV testing and pre- and post-test counseling was conducted by CDC-supported state and local health departments and community-based organizations.
On this National HIV Testing Day, let us work together to increase the number of people who are aware of their HIV status. As individuals, let us commit to getting tested for HIV. Knowing one’s HIV status, whether negative or positive, is empowering. It allows us all to make choices to protect our health and the wellbeing of others, and is a gateway to highly-effective treatment and care. National HIV Testing Day is among the best times to get tested as free testing events are happening throughout the country – in community centers, mobile vans, places of worship and other venues. To further promote HIV testing, doctors can offer their patients HIV testing as a routine part of their health care as recommended by CDC. Additionally, communities and governments can support HIV testing and make it more available.
No matter what your role is in fighting this epidemic, today is the day to make your resolution.
Find an HIV testing site at www.hivtest.org or at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).