National HIV Testing Day has expanded in many areas to National HIV Testing Week. People nationwide and throughout South Florida are encouraged to learn their HIV status on June 27.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. People with certain risk factors should get tested more often.
Knowing one’s HIV status provides powerful information. People who test positive for HIV can take medicines to keep them healthy and to greatly reduce their chance of passing HIV to others. But the only way to know for sure if someone has HIV is to get tested.
The 2017 federal theme is "Test Your Way. Do It Today." The CDC is running a new national HIV testing and prevention campaign designed to motivate all adults to get tested for HIV and know their status—called Doing It.
South Floridians are urged to do it—the rate of new HIV diagnoses in this area jumped to more than three times the national average in 2015, according to the CDC’s annual HIV Surveillance Report, which found that diagnoses in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area in 2015 averaged about 38.8 cases per 100,000 people. Nationally, the rate of new HIV diagnoses in 2015 averaged 12.3 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC data, which is preliminary.
“On national HIV testing day we should recognize that HIV testing is the first and most important step we can take to meet our personal health goals and to achieve public health by working to and the HIV epidemic,” says Dr. Howard Grossman, a widely-recognized specialist in HIV medicine. “Testing for HIV should be as routine as screening people for blood pressure or checking them for diabetes. Ready access to testing is especially important for our brothers and sisters in communities of color and our transgender communities, groups that are disproportionately affected by the epidemic.”
Around 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and one in eight people don't know they have it. Nearly 45,000 people find out they have HIV every year. HIV testing is the gateway to prevention and care.
Studies have shown that providing antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible after diagnosis improves a patient’s health, reduces transmission and can eventually lead to undetectable viral loads of HIV.
This model has been implemented in other cities, and is being piloted in Miami-Dade County. People who test negative have more prevention tools available today than ever before. People who test positive can take HIV medicines that can keep them healthy for many years and greatly reduce their chance of passing HIV to others.
According to Florida’s Department of Health, the state is a national leader in HIV testing with a wide-range of statewide services. The department provides high-quality HIV testing services using the latest testing technology at each of the 67 county health departments. In 2015, over 378,000 tests were conducted. Testing is also performed through private doctors’ offices and other non-DOH testing sites.
“Today it’s harder to make an excuse for why a person hasn’t been tested for HIV,” said Lorenzo Lowe, Director of HIV Prevention at Compass, The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Palm Beach County. “Thanks to millions of dollars from funding sources, testing is available in multiple cities and locations including your physician’s office. There are also websites and phone apps that can direct anyone to a testing site. Testing is free, it’s quick, it’s easy, so ‘just do it.’ Take the test and learn your status. It’s just that simple.”
Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of HIV tests conducted at over 1,500 publicly funded and registered sites. Many community centers, including the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Compass in Lake Worth and Care Resource in Miami, have testing events from June 21 to June 27. For a total list of testing sites, view the health department’s interactive map at FLhiv.doh.state.fl.us/ClinicSearch/ClinicSearch.aspx.to.