HIV Testing Day: Wouldn’t you like to know?
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day
Living with HIV is scary. You don’t always know if you have it. And HIV can linger in your body for as long as 10 years, or as little as three months, before you show any symptoms.
But with early detection and a wide range of medications available, people can live for many years with HIV and never develop AIDS. This is one message that the county, along with other local health agencies, hope to convey June 27 during National HIV Testing Day: HIV is preventable and is treatable.
Planned Parenthood’s Katharyn McLearan said that HIV testing is especially important since 28 percent of people with HIV don’t know they have it. Those people run an especially high risk of spreading the disease to their partners.
People are “strongly encouraged to get an HIV test every year” or with new partners, she said. “We also strongly encourage people to use condoms.”
National HIV Testing Day was created in 1995 by the National Association of People with AIDS to promote routine HIV testing and early diagnosis of the disease. Despite a slow rise in new cases, the overall spread of HIV has disproportionately affected certain groups, said Lisa Matulonis, with the county’s HIV/Communicable Diseases Prevention Program.
Of all women diagnosed with HIV in the county between 1999 and 2006, 54 percent were African-American women; the percentages of HIV and AIDS cases among African-American women were 54 percent and 42 percent, respectively. “It’s definitely growing,” Matulonis said, referring to the new cases.
But “HIV doesn’t have to turn into AIDS, especially if people live generally healthy lifestyles,” she said. If the disease is caught early on, Matulonis said there are treatments that help those who are infected live for decades without developing AIDS.
The local agencies participating in National HIV Testing Day include Sacramento County; the Center for AIDS Research, Education and Services; Breaking Barriers; Harm Reduction Services; and Planned Parenthood.
These agencies will be using a new rapid HIV test, which would provide results in less than 10 minutes. The test works by taking a small blood sample from a person’s finger and placing that sample in a box with reactants for HIV markers. Results are given as “reactive” or “nonreactive,” which McLearan said would warrant double-checking with a more comprehensive HIV test if the result comes back “reactive.”
Go to www.sacdhhs.com for information about testing locations and hours.