National HIV Testing Day Urges People to ‘Take the Test, Take Control’
Today's 8th annual National HIV Testing Day, first declared in 1995 by the National Association of People With AIDS, is designed to increase awareness of the disease and encourage Americans to be tested for the virus. Of the 850,000 to 950,000 people who are HIV-positive in the United States, nearly 300,000 of them do not know they have the virus, according to CDC estimates. The CDC also estimates that at least half of the approximately 40,000 Americans who will become infected with HIV this year are under the age of 25. The theme of this year's campaign is "Take the Test, Take Control" (NAPWA HIV Testing Day Web site, 6/27). In addition to the NAPWA-sponsored Web site, www.nhtd.org, the CDC has created a Web site, www.hivtest.org, that lists frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, resources for individuals who test HIV-positive and referrals for testing and counseling and links readers to a national database of HIV testing centers and upcoming testing events (CDC HIV Testing Day Web site, 6/27). State and local health departments and AIDS organizations around the country are also launching HIV testing campaigns and many are offering free HIV tests today. Call your local or state health department for more information.
Most Americans Have Never Been Tested
According to a study published in the current issue of AIDS Patient Care and STDs, only about 30% of U.S. adults have ever been tested for HIV, and most "do not want to be," Reuters Health reports. Study author Dr. Joseph N. Inungu of Central Michigan University examined data on more than 32,000 U.S. men and women between the ages of 18 and 80 that were collected during the National Health Interview Survey in 1998. Inungu found that 66% of survey participants had never been tested for HIV, and 58% of participants said they did not want to be tested, "although they could not identify any particular reason for their reluctance." In addition, 38% "simply did not believe they were at risk for contracting" the disease. "There is a lot of denial out there," Inungu said, adding, "The ultimate decision rests with the patient. (But) anybody who, at one time, was embarked in risky behaviors -- sex with prostitutes, injection drug use, or male-to-male sex -- should make sure he is not infected" (Mozes, Reuters Health, 6/24). If "we ... encourage individuals to seek testing for HIV infection ... [w]e can accelerate our efforts to contain the spread of [the virus] and advocate aggressive programs for prevention," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said. Terje Anderson, executive director of NAPWA, said, "Simply put, Testing Day saves lives" (NAPWA HIV Testing Day Web site, 6/27).
Satcher Says 'Take the Test'
Former Surgeon General David Satcher writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece in observance of today's National HIV Testing Day that it is "[o]f paramount importance in this struggle [to] convinc[e] those who feel they may be at risk for HIV/AIDS to be tested if they have not been." Satcher warns that the nation is "beginning to see troubling regressions" in certain populations, including gay and bisexual men and African Americans and Latinos, which is a "clarion call that we must redouble our efforts -- and resources" to curb the spread of the disease among high-risk populations. He continues, "For some, HIV and AIDS can still be difficult to talk about. But talk about it we must," adding that Americans cannot "relax or relent in our outreach and prevention efforts," particularly for minorities and young people. Satcher concludes, "Only through a global commitment to individual responsibility can we hope to achieve the ultimate victory: slowing and eventually stopping the spread of this devastating disease" (Satcher, Los Angeles Times, 6/26).