According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., 250,000 of them do not know they are positive because they have not been tested. To reduce this number, National HIV Testing Day is aimed at encouraging more Americans to get tested for HIV in order to know their status.
And knowing one's HIV status is extremely important, especially for African-Americans. While African-Americans make up 14 percent of the overall U.S. population, we account for almost half of all HIV infections that are diagnosed each year. And to make matters worse, we are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time than any other racial group, meaning we wait to get tested until we are already really sick.
Late testing is not only dangerous for the person living with HIV/AIDS, but for the entire community as a whole because people who are not on AIDS medications are more likely to unknowingly transmit the virus to their partners if they have unprotected sex. While our lives depend on knowing our status, there unfortunately remains a lot of shame and stigma around HIV testing.
Some people say they don't ever want to know if they are positive or that getting tested means you are looking for something that you don't want. But the reality is by not knowing your status you are being irresponsible, and waiting can be the difference between life and death. HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence it used to be. Thanks to science, there are many drugs available that people living with HIV/AIDS can take to suppress the virus and allow for them to live a long and relatively healthy life.
So what are you waiting for?
Getting tested doesn't hurt, and you don't have to wait weeks for your results like folks did back in the day. With the rapid tests that are offered in many doctor offices and clinics around the country, you only have to get your mouth swabbed, and the results comes back in 30 minutes.
Most important, remember that everyone regardless of sexual orientation needs to get tested (that means you straight brothas', too), because everyone is at risk. Also, get tested more than just once, but every year. For those who have health insurance, when you get a physical, it is crucial for you to tell your doctor to test you for HIV. And whatever you do, don't allow any doctor to talk you out of getting tested.
Take control of your future by taking the most important test out there. It might save your life.
Learn where you can get tested in your area here.
Not everyone will test HIV-negative. Click here to know what to do if you test HIV-positive.
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