Thursday, June 19, 2014

National HIV Testing Day

Since the late 1970s, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, has been a significant health issue in the United States and around the world. Currently, there are almost 1.2 million people in the U.S. who are living with HIV. Although there is still no cure, with proper medical care and antiretroviral therapy, the virus can be controlled and managed in most patients.

But despite this good news, there is still a serious problem that must be addressed: Nearly one in five people with HIV are unaware that they are infected. This means they are not seeking treatment, and worse, they can pass the virus to others without knowing it. People who are unaware of their positive HIV status also have a greater risk of developing serious medical issues, or dying at a younger age (CDC, 2011). 

On June 27th, 1995, the National Association of People with AIDS sponsored the first National HIV Testing Day in order to promote awareness of the disease, and to encourage HIV testing and early diagnosis. The event is still held annually, every June 27th, and is now sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Minnesota Dept. of Health, 2014).

Who should be tested for HIV? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once, as part of a general health screening. More frequent testing is advisable for individuals who are at greater risk of contracting HIV. This includes those who are sexually active with more than one partner, those who are intravenous drug users, and/or share drug paraphernalia with others, and anyone who trades sex for money or drugs. For individuals in these categories, HIV testing is recommended at least once a year, and ideally will be done at least every six months (CDC, 2014).

Also at a greater risk for HIV are individuals who have been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis, or those who have been diagnosed or treated for tuberculosis or hepatitis. Finally, any person who has been the victim of a sexual assault should be tested for HIV (CDC, 2014). 

Testing for HIV is a fast, easy, and relatively painless process. The most commonly used test for HIV is the antibody screening test, also called the immunoassay test. This test may be conducted in a laboratory, or can be done in a more rapid method which will provide almost immediate results. By using a small amount of blood from a finger prick, or oral fluid from a cheek swab, the rapid test can detect HIV antibodies in the body.

Some of the newer tests are the most accurate ever used, and can detect HIV as little as three weeks after exposure to the virus. When an immunoassay test indicates the individual is positive for HIV antibodies, a follow-up diagnostic test will be ordered by the health care provider. These more detailed tests help to determine the level of infection present. An antibody differentiation test distinguishes HIV-1 from HIV-2; an HIV-1 nucleic acid test looks for the virus directly, an indirect immunofluorescense assay test will detect antibodies (CDC, 2014).

Testing positive for HIV can be a frightening experience, but the earlier the diagnosis is made, and medical treatment is sought, the more positive the health outcome for the patient. The medications used to treat and manage HIV are very effective for most individuals, and help to lower the amount of the virus that is present in the body, which will keep the patient healthier. By keeping the virus controlled with medication, the risk of transmission to others is also reduced. And finally, early detection and treatment of HIV helps to decrease the number of individuals who develop AIDS (CDC, 2011).

The theme for this year’s National HIV Testing Day is “Take the Test. Take Control,” and the event will be observed across the country, with a variety of activities. In Denton, Health Services of North Texas, located at 4210 Mesa Dr., provides free HIV testing, and, the Denton County Public Health Department offers confidential and anonymous HIV testing, by appointment, for a $20 fee.

For more information about HIV and AIDS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, is a valuable resource.

And if you’d like to find a testing center or other special events for National HIV Testing Day, please click on the link below for more information for your local area.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). New Hope for Stopping HIV. Retrieved from:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). HIV/AIDS Testing. Retrieved from:

Minnesota Department of Health. (2014). National HIV Testing Day, June 27, 2014 Fact Sheet. Retrieved from:

Written by: Kelly Greene

Ms. Greene is a Health Studies graduate student completing her MS in the fall of 2014. Her emphasis is Community Health, and her passion is finding a solution to the problem of food insecurity in the U.S. She received a BA in Exercise and Sport Studies from UTA in 1998.

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