On June 27th, it is National HIV Testing Day. This day encourages people to get tested for the virus, know their status, and educate other people about tests.
Photo by National Cancer Institute from Unsplash
HIV appeared in the first identified patient in 1981. Since then, people have recognized it as a potentially life-threatening condition. Luckily, however, doctors and scientists better understand the virus today than they did in the early '80s. Scientists have come up with many medications for the virus. These medications can both prevent people from getting HIV and keep those who get it healthy. They can also minimize symptoms in the long term. People who take some HIV medications become unlikely to spread the virus. Doctors also now recognize many lifestyle and diet choices that help people with HIV. These choices keep immune systems strong.
However, despite all the new knowledge about the virus, there is only one way the information can help. That is: if someone knows that they have the virus. And to determine whether you have the virus, it's essential to get an HIV Test. Ultimately, that's the entire point of National HIV Testing Day. This holiday happens each year on June 27th. It's a nationwide push to get more people to figure out whether or not they have (or can transmit) HIV.
On this year's National HIV Testing Day, you can help spread awareness about the virus. You can also teach about the importance of HIV testing and treatment by taking a test. Mark the day in other ways, as well, by learning and teaching all you can about HIV, joining an HIV support group, or encouraging others to get an HIV test.
Here are some of the best ways we think you can spend National HIV Testing Day this year.
Resources for Teaching and Learning About HIV
You want more people to get an HIV test on National HIV Testing Day. So, commit to teaching other people about the virus. Educate them about the history of the disease. Talk about people transmit it. Describe how it affects the body. You can also explain how doctors treat it. Finally, end by describing how scientists diagnose HIV, how people take tests, and where public testing sites are.
Learn what you can about the disease and encourage other people to get an HIV test on National HIV Testing Day. That way, you can make sure you do your part to contribute to the day's ultimate purpose.
Here are some resources that you can use to learn and teach about HIV before encouraging a test:
• HIV.gov: the federal government's leading source for information about HIV
• National HIV Curriculum: an AIDS Education training center program led by the University of Washington
• The Well Project: talking with children about HIV and HIV awareness for kids
HIV Support Groups
It can feel scary and alienating to receive a diagnosis like HIV. Also, if you receive a diagnosis, you may feel depressed. However, it can help to know that more people than you realize actually have the virus. Many of these people live completely full, healthy, normal lives. Many also offer support online and in support groups.
One place to find encouragement after a diagnosis is in an HIV Support Group. Here are some links to active groups. Use them to connect with others who relate to your experience:
• POZ Community Forum: One of the largest and oldest discussion boards for people with HIV in the United States
• HIV/AIDS Therapy Tribe: Another online support group for people living with HIV/AIDS
• Positive Peers: Youth and teens living with HIV can find support in this private support group that comes in the form of an app.
Resources to Locate Testing Sites
If you actually want to get tested for HIV on National HIV Testing Day (June 27th), there are sites all over the United States. Many sites offer free and low-cost tests. To find the testing location that makes the most sense for you, check out one of the resources:
• National HIV Testing Day (CDC)
• HIV.gov testing sites locator (HIV.gov)
• Free HIV Testing at Walgreens (Greater Than)
At the end of the day, doctors have a much deeper understanding of HIV than they ever have. Receiving a diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Instead, doctors believe HIV is a medical condition that can be prevented and treated. Prophylactics and medication protect people from it. Symptoms and viral load are managed with diet and medication. Healthy lifestyle changes also help. HIV treatment should be managed under the care of a knowledgeable physician. You can remain healthy with a doctor's help, even if you contract the disease.
If you believe you might have HIV, the safest and most responsible thing to do is: visit a testing site. If you know that you have it, you can begin treatment for it. In turn, you can keep the amount of virus in your body under control right away.
Spend National HIV Testing Day learning about the virus. Then take an HIV test. You will ensure you do your part to minimize the spread of the once deadly condition. You may also feel prepared to teach others to do their part, too.