Every year, June 27th is National HIV Testing Day in the US. This day was created to promote HIV testing. HIV/AIDS has become a chronic condition, no longer are people automatically destined to die quickly due to HIV/AIDS related illnesses. That’s great and all for everyone who knows they are HIV positive and are on treatment, but what about the estimated 1 in 8 people who have HIV but don’t know it? That’s why a day like this exists. To create more dialogue around HIV/AIDS awareness and testing, helping to normalize these types of conversation. CDC recommends that everyone aged 13-64 get tested for HIV, no matter their risk level.
HIV tests now are quite quick and easy. Some tests include swabbing your inner cheek with a giant q-tip, some are a quick finger prick of blood. You get results fast, like in 30 mins or less fast. If you’re not super keen on searching out a testing location, such as your doctor’s office, local HIV/AIDS non-profits, or mobile vans, you can test in the privacy of your own home. If you test positive, you may need a follow-up confirmatory test depending on where you get tested, but don’t let that deter you from getting a rapid test. If you need to go somewhere else for a confirmatory test, your tester should help you get that set up (if they don’t, ask).
Knowing your HIV status helps you take control of your health, and by extension, the health of your sexual partners. People with undetectable viral loads (meaning the amount of virus in their body is so low the machine can’t detect it, they’re still HIV-positive but no machine is 100% perfect) have reduced their likelihood of transmitting HIV by 96 percent. I’m not going to advocate for folks who fit into this category to not use other methods of protection when engaging in sexual activity, you can still get every STI (STD) out there even when your HIV viral load is undetectable. But we know that in order to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, we need to interrupt transmission. Since people who are HIV-positive are going to keep having sex, helping them find out their status and get on treatment can help interrupt the transmission of HIV.
Finding out any sort of health-related results can be scary. Lots of folks avoid seeking medical care for things a lot less stigmatizing than HIV. But here’s the truth, a recent HIV test result is just another fact about your health. Like if you have high blood pressure, are pre-diabetic, have a heart murmur, etc. You can only make smart choices if you have all the information, and knowing your HIV status is a good first step.