The Center for Disease Control (CDC) highlights the importance of HIV testing. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention reminds us:
"Every time someone gets tested for HIV, we are one step closer to ending the AIDS epidemic. Learning your HIV status opens the door to powerful HIV prevention and treatment options that could save your life or the life of someone you love."
"If more Americans were tested as recommended, we could prevent thousands of needless HIV infections and deaths. National HIV Testing Day serves as a reminder to take a stand against one of the key issues driving this epidemic – not knowing your HIV status. Take your stand today – take the test and take control."
CDC also recommends that all adolescents and adults get tested at least once for HIV. For gay and bisexual men and others at high risk, CDC recommends more frequent testing.
Why get tested? There are benefits of getting tested for both positive and negative individuals. In addition, there have been significant advances in HIV testing methods that reduce the anxiety of waiting for results and provide more accurate results. As the CDC says, "testing is the gateway to treatment and care." Consider this sobering fact: CDC estimates that 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV, and nearly 1 in 5 of them do not know they are infected. Amongst the benefits of getting tested for HIV are:
- Testing helps reduce the spread of HIV. Early diagnosis allows those infected to take steps to protect their partners from infection, and early treatment can lower viral load, and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others by 96 percent.
- Testing can also link negative individuals up with important services and support networks to help them stay negative.
There are three types of HIV tests. If the first test is positive, a follow-up test is administered to verify the result.
The first is an antibody test. This test detects the presence of antibodies against HIV, which usually develop within two to eight weeks after exposure to the virus. An antibody test can be conducted on a sample of blood or oral fluid.
A second type is called Combination Antigen-Antibody Test, which detects both the antibody to HIV and the antigen "p24" – a protein that is part of the virus itself. Because p24 can be detected within four to seven days before antibodies appear combination tests can also identify very early infections.
Finally there is the RNA Test that detects the presence of the virus in the blood. An RNA test can detect very early infection, within 10-15 days of exposure, before antibody tests are able to detect HIV.
Use this online tool to find local testing events.
According to CDC:
- In a study of MSM in 21 U.S. cities, 44 percent of MSM infected with HIV were unaware of their infection. Of those, 55 percent had not been tested in the past 12 months, as CDC recommends.
- Although African Americans are more likely to get tested for HIV than Latinos or whites, more than a third have never been tested.
- Half of high school students report having had sex, but CDC data show that only 13 percent have ever been tested for HIV.