The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are currently about 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV. There are close to 50,000 more people who contract the virus each year. And one in eight people who have the human immunodeficiency virus don’t even know it. Which means these people are not getting the medical care they need in order to stay healthy and informed and avoid passing the virus on to others.
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.
One of the reasons that HIV and AIDS has become a manageable disease is because so many people took preventative action. They informed themselves, they stayed up on what the latest tests and medications were, they talked to their medical providers.
For those who sought out treatment for their HIV status, they had a 96 percent reduction in transmission rate compared to persons not on treatment. That not only affects them but their loved ones, the medical community, and society overall. When people do not know their status, they cannot access HIV-specific care, including antiretroviral treatment and other supportive services. Early testing and diagnosis is critical for connecting people to life-extending treatment, thereby preventing the spread of HIV to partners. Each HIV infection averted saves an estimated $600,000 in lifetime medical costs. Knowing one has HIV also greatly reduces risk behavior and the chance that a person will spread the virus to others.
Protecting yourself and others against HIV starts with knowledge. Knowing the facts about HIV will help you make informed decisions about sex, drug use, and other activities that may put you and your partners at risk for HIV.
- Learn the basics about HIV, how to prevent HIV transmission, and the steps you can take to protect yourself and others.
- Talk about what you learn with your friends and other people who are important to you.
- Empower even more people via social media. Share your new knowledge with your friends online. (Follow @TalkHIV and tweet about National HIV Testing Day using #NHTD.
- 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.
The CDC also 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, CDC recommends HIV testing with each pregnancy, both for your own benefit and to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby.