Since the first case of what came to be known as “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” (AIDS) was reported in 1981, the disease has spread across the world in a pandemic that has killed 30 million people and infected 34 million more. World AIDS Day recognizes the strides made in the fight against the HIV virus, and the work still to be done to address gaps in access to testing, treatment and care.
Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 1,000,000 people are living with HIV, with approximately 50,000 more added each year. Sadly, over one-quarter (26%) of the new infections are in young people between the ages of 13 and 24. Most of these adolescents and young adults (60%) are not aware of their infection status, according to CDC’s recent Vital Signs report.
What can you do to curb the pandemic, and also protect yourself and those you love? Get tested! CDC recommends that everyone should be screened who does not know his or her HIV status.
Yes, it’s daunting to confront disease of any type, much less AIDS, but knowledge is your best protection. Early treatment of HIV infection prolongs life and prevents transmission, and for the vast majority who are not infected, testing brings peace of mind.
What’s more, it’s never been easier to get tested. Clinics offer rapid tests that provide preliminary results on-site. Over-the-counter tests, approved by the Federal Drug Administration in July, are now available at pharmacies for at-home testing. To ensure the accuracy of these tests, initial positive results are confirmed at public health, clinical and commercial laboratories.
Do you know your HIV status? If not, do your part on this World AIDS Day, and get tested. You can find the closest testing center by entering your zip code at CDC’s testing resources site.