According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million people in the United States live with HIV, and 40,000 new cases of the virus are reported each year.
This is a pretty startling statistic, especially when you realize that we are speaking of an infection that once was at the forefront of our collective consciousness in this nation and at the center of significant activism efforts. Unfortunately, HIV is no longer discussed as openly and publicly in this country as it used to be. Now that is doesn’t make headline news every night, it seems as though it has become the forgotten disease.
There is one statistic, however, that makes the reality of HIV infection something we all should know about. Of the one million people infected with HIV, more than 250,000 don’t know they are infected. That means that in more than 10,000 of the 40,000 new cases diagnosed, annually, the individuals are ignorant of their HIV status. That’s 10,000 people who are not receiving the effective treatments that are now so readily available. That’s 10,000 people who may be putting others at risk.
Getting tested for HIV infection is quick and easy. Your physician can administer the test for you, or you can visit a community clinic or health care facility that offers free HIV testing. Visit www.hivtest.org to find a testing site near you.
According to the CDC, the most common HIV tests use blood to identify the presence of HIV antibodies. Tests using saliva or urine also are available. Test results are typically available within a few days, but rapid HIV tests provide results in about 20 minutes. All positive HIV test results must be followed with a second test to confirm the initial finding. Repeat testing also should be performed three-to-six months later, even if the initial test is negative, to account for individuals who may take longer to develop detectable HIV antibodies.
Why is it important to know your HIV status? It’s important because, in the case of HIV, knowledge is power. Knowing your status, whether positive or negative, gives you the power to protect your own health and the health of your partner. It enables you to access the information you need to either stay uninfected or to stop the spread of the infection. HIV testing begins the process that leads to treatment.
Knowing your HIV status will help you live better and smarter today so that you can enjoy tomorrow.
About the Author
Nancy Burley is the coordinator of academic and support services for the College of Health and Human Services at Governors State University.