By David Martin, PhD (Director, APA Office on AIDS)
Did you know that about 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV and 1 in 5 don’t know they are infected? June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Everyone should consider getting tested for HIV – men who have sex with men (particularly ethnic minority MSM), transgender individuals, and people who have injected drugs should get tested.
Here are six reasons why you should consider getting tested for HIV.
1. You might have HIV and not know it.
An estimated 1 in 5 people living with HIV in the United States don’t know that they have HIV. If you have had sex with someone you didn’t know or whose HIV status you didn’t know and you didn’t use a condom, you may have HIV
2. If you have HIV, it is better to start treatment before you get sick.
You don’t have to have symptoms to have HIV, but starting treatment before you develop symptoms could help you live longer with fewer health problems than if you delay. The only way to know if you should start treatment is to get tested.
3. If you have HIV and don’t know it, you can transmit it to people you have sex with.
If you have sex with someone you don’t know, you should always use condoms to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) to others and to keep from getting them yourself. If you have HIV, getting treatment can further reduce the possibility of transmission to someone else. Using a condom every time you have sex can be hard; getting treatment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use condoms, but it can help reduce the risk of transmission if you accidentally forget and don’t.
4. Counseling after getting tested can help with planning for both positive and negative test results.
Counseling can help you make plans to avoid getting HIV if you are negative.
If you are positive, counseling can help you in making important decisions about getting treatment and in finding out about community resources that may help you cope with having HIV.
5. Finding out where to get tested is easy.
Just go to http://hivtest.cdc.gov and type in your ZIP code.
6. If you have HIV, you are not your disease.
I just moved to Washington, DC from the Los Angeles area; I often heard people with HIV there say something like, “I’m HIV.” I think they meant that they have HIV, but it is also a subtle way of identifying with the disease. Having HIV is not a death sentence and HIV doesn’t have to take over your life. If you get treatment and stay on it, you can have a productive and meaningful life that is centered on other things that matter to you.
For more help making this important decision, check out these resources to help you determine your risk for HIV:
APA Office on AIDS – National HIV Testing Day Page
CDC – My Reasons for Getting an HIV Test
CDC – Testing Makes Us Stronger
CDC – Take Charge, Take the Test
Spread the word. Tell others to “Take the Test, Take Control.” Share APA’s National HIV Testing Day e-card!