June 24, 2013

National HIV Testing Day: What You Need to Know

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Learn why it’s important to get tested for HIV and discover ways to raise awareness on National HIV Testing Day, celebrated on June 27th.

By Amy Boulanger | Jun 24, 2013 12:14 PM EDT

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1.1 million people are living with HIV (human immunodeficiency syndrome), and one in five are unaware that they are infected.

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) was created to encourage people to get tested for HIV and seek medical care to live healthy lives and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others. It was first observed on June 27, 1995. "Take the Test, Take Control."

Who Should Be Tested?

Many people with HIV don't present symptoms. They may not feel or look sick but are carrying the infection inside their body. That's why it's important to get tested so the infection is not passed to someone else.

Everyone between the ages of 15 to 65 should get tested for HIV at least once. All pregnant women should get tested.

HIV Testing

There is no cure for HIV. However, there have been great strides in the medications used to treat HIV. These medications can limit or slow the destruction of the immune system, improve health, and possibly reduce a person's ability to pass HIV to someone else.

Testing is quick and easy. The most common HIV tests use blood to detect an infection. Tests using saliva or urine are also available. Tests can take up to a few days for results. But rapid testing can show results in about 20 minutes.

All positive HIV tests must be followed up by another test to confirm the result.

Where To Get Tested

You can find an HIV testing location in various places:

  • HIV testing centers
  • health departments
  • hospitals
  • private doctors' offices
  • clinics

Find a testing site near you.

How is HIV spread?

The most common factors in the spread of HIV include:

  • Not using a condom. It is extremely risky to have unprotected sex with someone who has HIV.
  • Unprotected anal sex. This type of sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex.
  • Multiple sex partners.
  • Unprotected oral sex. Though it's a lower risk than anal or vaginal sex, this can also be a risk for HIV transmission.
  • Sharing drugs with needles.
  • Having another sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • Being born to an infected mother. HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.

Other less common factors may include:

  • Receiving blood transfusions, blood products, or organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV. This risk is extremely remote due to the rigorous testing of the U.S. blood supply and donated organs/tissue.
  • Unsafe or unsanitary injections. HIV may also be transmitted through unsanitary injections or other medical or dental practices. The risk, however, is extremely low thanks to current safety standards in the United States.
  • Eating food that has been pre-chewed by an infected person. This is a rare mode of HIV transmission, and has only been documented among infants whose caregiver gave them pre-chewed food.
  • Being bitten by a person with HIV. While very rare, there have been some documented cases of HIV transmission from a human bite, which involved severe trauma and blood. There is no risk of transmission if the skin is not broken.
  • Contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and HIV-infected blood or blood-contaminated body fluids — an extremely rare method of transmission.
  • Tattooing or body piercing. While no cases of HIV transmission from tattooing or body piercing have been documented, it's still safe to use sterile equipment.
  • "French" or deep, open-mouth kissing. This is an extremely rare way of contracting HIV, but could potentially be passed from an HIV-infected person if the HIV-infected person's mouth or gums are bleeding.
How Can You Raise Awareness?

There are many ways that you can help spread HIV awareness.

Host a fundraising or community event, such as a run or walk, to raise money for a local HIV organization.

Send Twitter posts.

  • Sample Tweets:
    • Today is National HIV Testing Day. Take the test, take control. Find HIV testing & services near you: http://1.usa.gov/9h37x0 #NHTD
    • One in five people living with #HIV in the U.S. don't know they have it. Get tested: http://1.usa.gov/VqGcRW #NHTD

Make a website announcement to encourage people to get tested.

Learn more about the National HIV/AIDS strategy.

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