National HIV Testing Day Urges People to ‘Take the Test, Take Control’
Tomorrow marks the 9th annual National HIV Testing Day, which is designed to increase awareness of the disease and encourage Americans to be tested for the virus. The day was first declared in 1995 by the National Association of People With AIDS. More than 10,000 groups, health departments and clinics throughout the country are participating in the event, the theme of which is "Take the Test, Take Control" (NAPWA release, 6/19). A Web site, www.nhtd.org -- which is sponsored by NAPWA, CDC, the Health Resources and Services Administration, Abbott Virology, Bristol-Myers Squibb Virology, the Kaiser Family Foundation, KNOW HIV/AIDS and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors -- provides a free campaign kit, including sound clips, posters and other information on scheduling testing day events (NAPWA HIV Testing Day Web site, 6/26). Another site, www.hivtest.org, which is sponsored by the CDC, provides answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, resources for individuals who test HIV-positive, referrals for testing and counseling and a link to a national database of HIV testing centers and upcoming testing events (CDC HIV Testing Day Web site, 6/25). In an effort to encourage more people at risk for HIV to be tested for the virus, NAPWA plans to launch a series of new "red ribbon" national public service announcements, featuring singers Macy Gray and Wyclef Jean and Latina talk-show host Cristina. NAPWA Executive Director Terje Anderson said, "The only way to stop the spread of AIDS is by taking action. Two decades of fighting this epidemic have shown us that if more people know their HIV status, they can take steps to improve their futures" (NAPWA release, 6/19).
A kaisernetwork.org interview with Anderson is available online.
CDC, OraSure Initiative
The CDC and OraSure Technologies, maker of the 20-minute, rapid HIV test OraQuick, today are expected to announce a "major" new initiative, in which the CDC plans to purchase almost 250,000 rapid HIV tests for $2 million and distribute them to state health departments, USA Today reports (Sternberg, USA Today, 6/26). OraSure announced on Tuesday that it would donate its OraQuick test to numerous locations throughout the country to mark National HIV Testing Day, according to an OraSure release (OraSure release, 6/24). In February, President Bush announced a plan to expand the availability of the test to more than 100,000 doctors' offices and public health clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24). OraSure CEO Mike Gausling said that donating the tests will "help increase the number of people who get tested and learn their HIV results," adding that the company will "continue to work in partnership with local, state and national agencies to help make this happen" (OraSure release, 6/24). However, using the test will also present new challenges to people who provide HIV testing and counseling, as counselors must be able to read the test and be prepared to provide a client with his or her results almost immediately (McMillen, Washington Post, 6/24).
The testing initiatives across the country "mark a major new trend" in HIV/AIDS prevention programs, according to USA Today. HIV testing is becoming an important component of prevention programs, bolstered by a $35 million push from the CDC through its "Advancing HIV Prevention: New Strategies for a Changing Epidemic" initiative. HIV testing is used in conjunction with traditional prevention programs that are designed to teach people how to prevent HIV infection. Through the joint initiative, access to the HIV test will be expanded, which the CDC hopes will help to reduce the number of people who are HIV-positive but do not know they are infected. Currently, of the estimated 900,000 HIV-positive people in the United States, about one-third have not been tested or have not returned to a clinic to receive their HIV test results. One goal of the CDC initiative is to reduce that proportion to from about 30% to 5% of HIV-positive individuals, according to USA Today.
"It's tragic that more than two decades into the disease we still have 250,000 [HIV-positive] people who don't know they have it," CDC Director Julie Gerberding said, adding, "Knowing one's HIV status is one of the most powerful motivators of behavior change." Gerberding said that most people who know that they are HIV-positive take steps to protect their partners. "The most important aspect of this new, rapid test is that each year 10,000 people in the U.S. test positive but never return for their test results," Mick Ellis, director of testing and counseling at the Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic, said, adding that the rapid test will enable counselors to give people their results in about 20 minutes (USA Today, 6/26). "We are hoping to make (testing) more convenient; show people how easy it is and hit them while they are doing their normal everyday activities," Angela Lamb of Memphis-based Friends for Life, an AIDS education and service organization, said (Powers, Memphis Commercial-Appeal, 6/25). Mamie Harris, director of 4 CHARIS, a faith-based program that provides HIV testing in Southwest Ohio, said, "It has to go beyond just one day. Awareness has to become a reality every day" (Bonfield, Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/23).
Several media outlets are also showing support for National HIV Testing Day. As part of the Viacom and Kaiser Family Foundation "KNOW HIV/AIDS" campaign, several television shows, including "Becker," "The Parkers," "One on One" and "Girlfriends," will include HIV/AIDS testing and awareness messages this week (KNOW HIV/AIDS release, 6/9). The KNOW HIV/AIDS campaign is aimed at raising HIV/AIDS awareness through public service announcements, television and radio programming and free print and online content. The campaign, which has a total ad placement value of $120 million, is targeted at both the general population and groups hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, such as people under age 25, minorities, women and men who have sex with men. The initiative has already created 49 television, radio and outdoor ads that are appearing on Viacom's television networks CBS and UPN and 200 affiliates; cable outlets MTV, BET, VH1, CMT, MTV2, TV Land, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Showtime, The New TNN and Comedy Central; more than 180 Infinity radio stations; and on billboards, buses and bus shelters (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/20). Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "KNOW HIV/AIDS is about reaching the public with critical health information that can save lives." To mark the day, VH1 will feature a quiz about HIV testing on its Web site (KNOW HIV/AIDS release, 6/9). VH1 General Manager Christina Norman said, "Our viewers grew up being warned about the dangers of HIV. But now they've gone on to careers and started families, HIV awareness has taken a backseat to other issues that face them today. But AIDS is still an epidemic that affects them and their families either directly or indirectly. Awareness and prevention are the most powerful tools against HIV and our viewers and their own efforts are essential in successfully helping to stop its spread" (VH1 release, 6/19).
The Kaiser Family Foundation yesterday released a new fact sheet, titled "HIV Testing in the United States," which provides statistics and information on testing trends, testing site policies and different test technologies (Kaiser Family Foundation, "HIV Testing in the United States" Fact Sheet, June 2003). The fact sheet is available online.