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December 1st is World AIDS Day – What You Should Know About HIV/AIDS Testing

World AIDS Day LogoWhile the world is no longer seeing an epidemic of deaths due to human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), it’s still an issue, and it’s still important to get tested. Why?

According to the CDC, approximately 36.7 million persons worldwide are living with HIV infection, and 2.1 million of those people became infected during 2015. In that same year, an estimated 1.1 million persons died from AIDS. Just in the United States, an estimated 44,000 persons received a diagnosis of HIV infection in 2014, bringing the total of people living with the virus up to about 850,000–950,000. And one quarter of those individuals are unaware that they have the virus.

How is that possible? Well, the only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. And because antiretroviral therapies have resulted in fewer newly reported AIDS cases and deaths, many people don’t feel the urgency of preventing HIV transmission and getting tested. However, the only way to prevent its transmission is for people to know their status and to eliminate “risky behaviors.”

How Can the Spread of HIV Be Prevented?
Anyone who practices risky behaviors—having unprotected sex with multiple partners or with someone of unknown HIV status and sharing drug injection needles or equipment—is at risk for acquiring HIV. HIV can strike anyone regardless of age, sex, race, income or sexual orientation. It is important that people at risk for HIV get tested.

Is it Hard to Get Tested? Is It Expensive?
Getting an HIV test is quick, easy, and almost always free. It involves a quick saliva or blood test, and you can do it anonymously. You can get one from your health care provider or at most hospitals, medical clinics, community health centers, and AIDS service organizations. You can even buy a home testing kit at a pharmacy or online.

Why Is It Better to Know?
Thinking about having HIV or AIDS can be frightening. But the unknown can be more frightening. Plus, if you’re diagnosed early, you have a better chance of living a long and healthy life. For one, you’ll have a better chance of protecting your immune system before it gets too weak and you get seriously ill. You’ll also be able to carry on healthy sexual relationships by protecting your future partners.

Who Should Get Tested For HIV?
The CDC recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once. People at high risk for HIV infection such as IV drug abusers should get tested each year; sexually active gay and bisexual men may want to get tested more often, such as every 3 to 6 months, especially if they do not use protection.

For more information on World AIDS Day and how you can get involved please visit www.aids.gov.