(BPT) - World AIDS Day, observed annually on Dec. 1, is a day for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, can occur in the later stages of an HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection when a person’s immune system is too weak to fight off the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than one million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. One in seven people who are infected with HIV are not aware they have the virus and are at risk of spreading it to others. If left untreated, the virus can progress to AIDS, a deadly and incurable disease. This is why testing is so important.
To learn more about the importance of HIV testing this World AIDS Day, here is some important information about HIV testing and prevention you should know:
Who should be tested for HIV?
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in a lifetime as part of routine healthcare. If you have specific risk factors, you may need to be tested more frequently. If you are a man who has sex with other men, have sex without a condom or have multiple partners, the CDC recommends getting tested for HIV every three to six months. In addition, HIV disproportionately affects African American men and women and Hispanic/Latino men. In 2015, African Americans accounted for 45 percent of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. though they make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population. Similarly, Hispanic/Latino men and women accounted for 24 percent of 2015 HIV diagnoses, of which 87 percent occurred in men.
How do you get tested for HIV?
To get tested, ask your doctor during your next visit to order an HIV test for you. Your doctor will refer you to a lab for testing and help you schedule an appointment. Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of HIV testing, has over 2,200 Patient Service Centers across the U.S. where you can get tested for HIV. Following your appointment, your doctor’s office will provide you with your results.
What happens if someone tests positive for HIV?
Thanks to the introduction of new therapies and advances in HIV, it’s now possible for someone who is HIV-positive to live a long, healthy life. It’s vital for people who are HIV-positive to strictly adhere to their medicines so they can suppress the virus. Additionally, it’s important for them to have regular check-ins with their doctor and be tested every three to six months to assess the amount of HIV in their blood.
If you are not HIV-positive, what can you do to continue to protect yourself?
For those who do not test positive, there are ways to continue to protect yourself from becoming infected with HIV.
- Get tested regularly for HIV and talk to your partner about doing the same. Ask your partner to share their HIV test results with you before you engage in sexual activity.
- Use condoms when having sex. When used properly, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. For those who are at high risk for HIV or simply want to be proactive, PrEP is a daily medicine that lowers the chances of contracting HIV. It’s an important preventative tool that can help people who are HIV-negative remain negative even if their partner is HIV-positive.
For more information on HIV testing or to find a Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Center near you, visit KnowAboutHIV.com.