My Test, My Way – By Getting Tested, We Can Stop the HIV Epidemic Together
In the United States, National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) falls annually on June 27th each year. This year’s theme, “My Test, My Way,” plays on the instrumental role that testing plays in eradicating the HIV epidemic. Building on the different awareness days each year (such as the June 5th Long-Term HIV Survivors Awareness Day), NHTD highlights different ways individuals can get tested and provides information on the numerous available resources regarding testing for and living with HIV.
With an estimated 38 million people living with HIV globally (an increase of 24% from 2010), NHTD is an excellent time to convey the importance of strong testing programs and ethos worldwide. In 2019, 1.7 million people received a life-altering HIV-positive diagnosis. And while we have made significant progress towards ending the HIV epidemic, the fight is not over. COVID-19 upended much of the world, and HIV testing programs were no exception. NHTD on June 27th is a great start to refocus our efforts on testing to help achieve our goal of eradicating the HIV epidemic by 2030.
Knowledge is power, and the only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. CDC data shows that 4 out of every 10 new HIV infections are transmitted by people unaware of their status; this underscores the importance of knowing your status. In addition, with approximately 1.7 million new HIV infections globally per year (as of 2019) and the ability of the virus to lay dormant (latency period) for up to 10 years, individuals may not present symptoms and thus, may not be aware of their status. In fact, as of 2019, only an estimated 81% of HIV-positive individuals knew their status. This can lead to increased transmission risk and personal health risk without receiving medical attention.
As an instrumental part of reducing and eventually ending HIV, National HIV Testing Day plays a critical role in creating awareness for increased testing rates. With decreases in HIV-related deaths by 39% and new infections by 23% relative to 2010, this shows the significance of testing in the global fight against HIV. Knowing helps individuals reduce transmission and seek out effective medical treatment, helping to keep others and themselves safe.
Thankfully, with modern treatment and antiretroviral drugs, living with HIV is no longer a death sentence; now, individuals can live a long and healthy life. With current global targets to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, testing will play a key role. June 27th marks an important date to create awareness of the different ways and places to get tested.
The focus of NHTD is to create awareness and help reach groups that are disproportionately affected by the disease. By showcasing the ease and safety of HIV testing, National HIV Testing Day can help create awareness of how easy getting tested is. With more education, testing can help reduce stigma and provide additional opportunities to support those who receive and are living with a positive diagnosis.
In the 2021 National HIV Testing Day announcement, Harold Phillips and Jonathan Mermin stated that this year, the theme helps to emphasize that “there are different ways and places to get tested for HIV including at home with a self-test.” In addition, “this year provides opportunities to talk about the testing options available and to empower audiences to choose based on their preferences and convenience.”
This important day brings together many organizations to join forces to raise the profile of the disease but also provide resources to get tested, learn more about the virus, and find the support required to live a healthy and viable life.
Knowing your HIV status is the first step to putting you in charge of your health. bioLytical is proud to be a key partner worldwide in HIV diagnostics and offers the world’s fastest Point-of-Care rapid HIV 1/HIV 2 antibody test.
The INSTI 60-second HIV Antibody Test provides accurate, easy-to-read results in less than one minute. It is the perfect test for high-volume campaigns such as National HIV Testing Day. In addition, the ability to provide a rapid result will help encourage more testing with minimal time or constraints.
National HIV Testing Day provides an opportunity for everyone to take control of their health by knowing their status, learning more about the virus, and reducing the stigma related to HIV.