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What You Should Know About HIV Testing Day, the CDC’s Revised Recommendations

National HIV Testing Day is June 27. Awareness is raised on this day to encourage individuals to be informed about their HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) status. “HIV Testing is Self-care” is this year’s 2022 National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) theme. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is the service organization protecting the public’s health, reminds that HIV “attacks the body’s immune system.” Knowing one’s HIV status is “the first step to accessing prevention or treatment services that enable individuals to live a long and healthy life regardless of their status,” per information provided on the National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) website. 

Nevertheless, HIV has taken a back seat in conversation to the coronavirus health crisis, but it still needs to remain top-of-mind. Sharing intravenous drug needles, and having unprotected sex, are two typical HIV transmission risks. With the increase of mental health pressures during the pandemic, it is wise to remain committed to HIV prevention, in hopes of avoiding unhealthily behaviors. Unmanaged mental health disorders may cloud judgement and cause a host of consequences. When people self-medicate by using drugs, it can impact decision making.

“An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States have HIV, including about 158,500 people who are unaware of their status. Nearly 40% of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who don’t know they have the virus,” the CDC reports.

The CDC’s revised HIV testing recommendations stipulate that individuals who are from ages 13-64 “should get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care.” Additionally, the CDC also wants individuals who are sexually active with more than one partner since taking their last HIV test to remember to get tested annually. And in cases of a portion of “sexually active gay and bisexual men,” testing on a more frequent basis could be beneficial. Proactive prenatal care should include all pregnant undergoing “certain blood tests to detect infections and other illnesses, such as HIV, syphilis, and Hepatitis B, too,” per CDC recommendations.

If the virus is left untreated, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) can develop. Although individuals who receive effective HIV treatment may live “long, healthy lives and protect their partners,” no “effective cure” been found, the CDC also reminds.  When HIV is detected early, controlling it with medications is possible. For individuals facing an HIV diagnosis, receiving medical care, and protecting others against transmission, are key objectives. 

“HIV medicine can reduce the amount of HIV in your blood (also called your viral load) to an undetectable level—a level so low that a standard lab test can’t detect it. People with HIV who take HIV medicine exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can stay healthy and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex,” HIV.GOV reports.

HIV testing options now span from requesting one at a doctor’s office, health clinic, community health center and special testing sites to taking one at home. With convenient and anonymous options available, the hope is that more people take action to know their HIV status. However, the CDC remind that although “HIV tests are very accurate,” none of the  tests “can detect the virus immediately after infection.”

The three stages of HIV are Acute HIV Infection; Chronic HIV Infection; and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. A large HIV amount of HIV is present in the first stage. While in the second, HIV remains active but it reproduces at lower levels. And in the third, the immune system has been severely damaged, per information that was provided by the CDC.

In the cases of antibody tests, a period of 23 to 90 days may be needed for antibodies to possibly show up in an individual’s blood or oral fluid. An antigen/antibody test in which blood is taken from a person’s vein 18 to 45 days after exposure. It is performed by a lab. The rapid version is conducted by a finger stick 18 to 90 days after exposure, to detect HIV antibodies and antigens. 

“Antibodies are produced by a person’s immune system when they’re exposed to viruses like HIV,” per the CDC’s screening and diagnosis breakdown provided online. Finally, Nucleic acid tests (NATs) seek to find “the actual virus in the blood.” 

Click here to navigate to NHTD resources.

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