Yesterday was National HIV Testing Day. Americans, especially between the ages of 13-64 are encouraged to get tested for HIV in an effort to have everyone ultimately tested for this disease that often leads to death if not diagnosed and treated.
The bad news is that HIV/AIDS still has no cure, and although many people are living healthy lives after an HIV diagnosis, the reality is that many will succumb to the disease of AIDS - particularly poorer individuals who may have no access to health care and may not even know they have HIV in the first place (and thus spreading the virus).
The good news is that knowing your result can either bring peace of mind or can jump start your treatment. Denial or ignorance ("it won't happen to me!") will only prolong a result and can lead to an AIDS diagnosis, rather than an HIV diagnosis. And as soon as someone knows their result, the sooner they can take precautions to protect others and not pass on the virus. While we must remember there is no cure, HIV is not an "automatic death sentence" for everyone anymore - with early testing, a good treatment program and a team of medical professionals behind you, a productive life, even with HIV, is possible!
Statistics from the Center of Disease Control show that a whopping 40% of people with HIV do not even know they have the disease until they have developed full blown AIDS. This is distressing news in a country where all should have access to a simple blood or saliva test that takes only minutes to get a result. Approximately one million persons in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS and approximately one quarter of these people do not even know they are infected.
Getting tested is a scary process and it's only natural to be nervous. But like most infections and diseases, early detection is key.
Older women take note - HIV is not only for the young! Women over the age of 60 are also at risk. They may establish new relationships after a death or divorce and do not need to use birth control to control pregnancy and are less likely to use condoms. When we see commercials on TV to implore us to 'get tested', we usually see young people talking to young people. Let's not forget that older people have sex lives too! And the introduction of medications like Viagra has made older men more sexually active than before. HIV/AIDS discriminates against no-one; old, young, gay, straight, married, single, drug user, drug free - we are all at risk.
Your doctor can perform this test for you, but so can many FREE testing centers near you. You may choose anonymous testing, or confidential testing - the choice is yours.
For a list of testing centers near you, please click here http://www.hivtest.org and simply punch in your zip code. The list will also tell you which clinics are free and how they test (blood, saliva, urine).
Knowledge is power.
Have you been tested? How do you feel about mandatory testing? How has HIV/AIDS affected your life or lifestyle?
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