Each year on June 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observe National HIV Testing Day. On this day, the agency unite with partners, health departments, and other organizations to raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing and early diagnosis of HIV. You, too, can help to encourage HIV testing on National HIV Testing Day and every day by ensuring people get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to the proper care and treatment services.
This year, Act Against AIDS Instagram will launch the week of June 22 in support of National HIV Testing Day. Act Against AIDS (AAA) is an initiative launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The White House to combat complacency about HIV and AIDS in the United States. Launched in 2009, Act Against AIDS focuses on raising awareness among all Americans and reducing the risk of infection among the hardest-hit populations – gay and bisexual men, African Americans, Latinos, and other communities at increased risk.
Act Against AIDS consists of several concurrent HIV prevention campaigns and uses mass media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet) to deliver important HIV prevention messages. All campaigns support the comprehensive HIV prevention efforts of CDC and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). Act Against AIDS also supports the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI), a network of national-level organizations that focus on African Americans, black men who have sex with men (MSM), and the Latino community.
National HIV Testing Day is a reminder to get the facts, get tested, and get involved to take care of yourself and your partners. An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and that number grows by almost 50,000 every year. One in seven people who have HIV don’t know it. That means they aren’t getting the medical care they need to stay healthy and avoid passing HIV to others.
The CDC has found that more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people who have HIV and ensuring they receive prompt, ongoing care and treatment. Early linkage to and retention in HIV care is central to managing HIV and promoting health among all people living with HIV. HIV medicines can keep people with HIV healthy for many years, and greatly reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to their sex partners.
But before we can stop any epidemic, we first have to recognize the magnitude of the disease. HIV is still a threat across the United States. And even though there are treatments to help people with HIV live longer than ever before, AIDS is still a significant health issue. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.
No safe and effective cure currently exists, but scientists are working hard to find one, and remain hopeful. Meanwhile, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Treatment for HIV is often called antiretroviral therapy or ART, which can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.
HIV affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS. Learn more about the stages of HIV and how to tell whether you’re infected.
Getting an HIV test is the only way to know if you have HIV. Getting tested can give you some important information and can help keep you—and others—safe. For example,
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care, and that people with certain risk factors get tested more often. People with more than one sex partner, people with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and people who inject drugs are likely to be at high risk and should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from even more frequent testing, depending on their risk. To protect your own health, you should also get tested if you have been sexually assaulted.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the CDC recommends HIV testing with each pregnancy, both for your own benefit and to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby.
The immune system usually takes 3 to 8 weeks to make antibodies against HIV, but tests differ in how early they are able to detect antibodies. Although most HIV tests look for these antibodies, some look for the virus itself. The period after infection but before the test becomes positive is called the window period.
Deciding when to get tested therefore depends on when you may have been exposed and which test is used. You can ask your health care provider about the window period for the HIV test you are taking. If you are using a home test, you can get that information from the materials included in the packaging of the test.
A few people will have a longer window period, so if you get a negative antibody test result in the first 3 months after possible exposure, you should get a repeat test after 3 months. Ninety-seven percent of people will develop antibodies in the first 3 months after they are infected. In very rare cases, it can take up to 6 months to develop antibodies to HIV.
Knowing your HIV status gives you the power to control your health and your future. And getting tested has never been easier. You can ask your health care provider to test you for HIV. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer HIV testing. Testing is often free of charge. You can also:
- Visit GetTested and enter your ZIP code.
- Text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948), and you will receive a text back with a testing site near you.
- Call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) to ask for free testing sites in your area.
- Contact your local health department.
- Get a home testing kit (the Home Access HIV-1 Test System or the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test) from a drugstore.
See Basic Testing Q&As for more information.
Ultimately, HIV testing is only one step. We can all do something to help stop HIV. Here are some ideas about how you and your friends can get involved.
- Share your knowledge of HIV or your personal HIV story with others. One of the best ways to increase awareness is through a personal connection with others. Participants featured in CDC’s HIV awareness campaign Let’s Stop HIV Together, shared their voices and personal stories to raise HIV awareness, reduce stigma, and champion the power of relationships in the personal and public fight to stop HIV.
- Use social media to increase HIV awareness. Follow @TalkHIV and tweet about National HIV Testing Day using #NHTD. You can also like Act Against AIDS on Facebook and create your own Let’s Stop HIV Together meme. Share your ad and encourage others to do the same.
- Support people living with HIV. Have an open, honest conversation about staying safe and healthy. Listen to the challenges that people living with HIV face and provide support for their special needs.
- Volunteer in your community. The first step to getting involved in HIV prevention is to contact your local AIDS service organizations and/or community health departments. These groups can help identify opportunities or other organizations that may need the support of volunteers .
- Let’s Stop HIV Together is a general-awareness campaign to reduce stigma by urging everyone to “Get the facts. Get tested. Get involved.”
- Start Talking. Stop HIV. encourages gay and bisexual men to communicate about testing and other HIV prevention issues.
- Reasons/Razones (en Español ) promotes HIV testing among gay and bisexual Hispanic/Latino men.
- Testing Makes Us Stronger encourages African American gay and bisexual men to get tested for HIV.
- Take Charge. Take the Test. encourages African American women to get tested for HIV.
- One Test. Two Lives. focuses on ensuring that all women are tested for HIV early in their pregnancy.