Guest Post—Take Pride in National HIV Testing Day
June 27, 2010
This guest post comes to us from Lorendra Pinder and Nathan Schaefer of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC): Amidst the marches, celebrations and rallies that mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) on June 27th. Observed annually to increase public awareness and promote early diagnosis through HIV testing, NHTD was founded by the National Association of People with AIDS in 1995. As the LGBT community continues to be disproportionately impacted by HIV, it is important that we take pride in improving the health of our communities by getting tested early and often. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one in five of the 1.1 million people in the United States estimated to be living with HIV are not aware of their status. Of all new cases of HIV, over half are attributed to people who do not know their HIV status. Promoting testing among gay and bisexual men is especially important. The latest CDC data reported a sharp increase in new diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) and African Americans. While HIV still disproportionately affects MSM, blacks/African Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos, MSM are the only risk group with increasing annual numbers of new HIV infections. From 2005-2008, estimated diagnoses of HIV increased approximately 17% among gay/bisexual men and other MSM. During the same period, estimated HIV diagnoses increased approximately 12% in blacks/African Americans. While MSM represent only around 2% of the US population, they are 44 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than other men and account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the US. Black gay men are the most disproportionately affected within this population. While gay men are twice as likely to practice safer sex as straight people, gay men continue to be at higher risk for HIV. This year’s NHTD theme “Take the Test, Take Control” emphasizes the importance of knowing your HIV status. Being aware puts you in control of your health and ensures that you do not place others at risk. While the idea of getting tested may be considered difficult by some people, fear of the results should not outweigh the importance of knowing one’s status. Regular testing is important, because HIV is not immediately detectable. It typically takes three weeks to three months for HIV antibodies to be detectable by most commonly used rapid tests. Sometimes this period, referred to as “the window period”, may be as long as six months, making periodic testing so important. During this time if someone is HIV-positive they can still spread the HIV, making both regular testing and safer sex practices vital to HIV prevention. Remaining healthy is essential for both HIV-positive and HIV-negative persons. The only way to do so is to know your status. ‘Take the test, Take Control.’ To find a HIV testing location near you, visit hivtest.org.