(RxWiki News) If you want to play a role in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, there are two great ways to do so. First, get tested. Next, get involved in this year's National HIV Testing Day.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This virus weakens the immune system and, without treatment, can lead to AIDS — a condition in which the body can no longer fight off infection and disease.
On June 27, groups across the United States will be recognizing National HIV Testing Day, with the aim of promoting HIV testing.
An HIV test lets people know if they have HIV. And with that knowledge, patients can take steps to prevent the spread of HIV and get the care they need.
"Find an HIV testing center near you."
At the end of 2006, over 1 million people in the United States were living with HIV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 38 to 44 percent of all US adults had been tested for HIV by 2002. But by the end of 2006, about one in five of the adults with HIV (about 232,700) did not realize they were infected with the virus.
These are some startling numbers. However, many private and public groups, as well as individual citizens, are working to change that by promoting HIV testing across the country.
For this year's National HIV Testing Day, AIDS.gov and other organizations are showing you where you can get tested and why it's important to do so.
The most common way to diagnose HIV is through blood or saliva tests that look for the presence of antibodies to the virus. Antibodies are used by the immune system to detect harmful substances in the body.
These blood and saliva tests can't spot infection right away because it usually takes some time for the body to develop HIV antibodies. In most cases, it takes about 12 weeks for HIV antibodies to appear, but it can take as much as six months in some cases.
There is also a newer test that looks for HIV antigens, those harmful substances that the antibodies detect. This test acts faster than the blood or saliva tests, often confirming an HIV diagnosis within days. Such an early diagnosis can give patients a head start on treatment and allow them to take extra safeguards to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
The AIDS.gov website has a locator for finding HIV testing sites and care services. There's even an app for the iPhone and iPad that helps you find these HIV services.
The website also provides you with information about National HIV Testing Day events in your area.
So why is it important to get tested for HIV?
First of all, without getting tested, you won't know your HIV status. And not knowing that you're infected means you're not getting the treatment you need.
Over the past decade, HIV treatments have improved immensely. Today, many people with HIV infection can live long, fulfilling and healthy lives.
While it can be a scary thought, knowing your HIV status allows you to make informed decisions not only about your personal health, but also about your behavior. If you know that you're infected, you can take steps to prevent the spread of the disease.
Research has shown that many infected people reduce risky behaviors — such as unprotected sex or sharing needles — when they find out that they are infected with HIV.
So, for this National HIV Testing Day, AIDS.gov and its partners want you to get involved, saying, "Take the Test, Take Control."