Today is National HIV Testing Day in the USA and some other parts of the world. Observed on June 27, annually, this date is designated to remind us all of the importance of knowing our HIV status and in doing so, enhance our health. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is no longer the life-threatening condition that it once was and through treatment and medication, it is now a manageable disease. It remains, however, a communicable infection with serious consequences if untreated. That is the reason testing for HIV is very important to our health.
The fact that almost a third of the persons who are living with HIV are unaware of their status and are probably infecting others highlights the need for regular testing. “It’s not who we are but it’s what we do that puts us at risk of HIV infection.” That’s the mantra and underlying moral that I use every time that I present HIV/AIDS prevention education information to others. Viruses do not discriminate and HIV is one equal opportunity infection that we all can do without.
Early detection of HIV equals treatment and access to services that enable us to live productive and rewarding lives. Knowledge of our HIV status means that we can be guilt-free of infecting others. Involvement in HIV prevention education programs empower us to share the facts and messages with others, whether one-on-one or before a group, that help strengthen our community and raise awareness.
I’ve shared before that I volunteer for an AIDS service organization on Tuesdays as well as volunteering as an HIV/AIDS Curriculum Instructor Trainer for the American Red Cross. From my own experiences, I can relate that over and over many of the individuals that I encounter often state the relief they felt when they initially received the results of their HIV tests. They acknowledged that, finally, they felt as though they could now begin to “get on” with living their lives again. The uncertainty was, at last, over and behind them.
HIV is transmitted in one or more of the following ways:
- contact with the blood, semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person
- through the breast milk of an infected mother nursing her child
- the sharing of needles and syringes with an infected person
- the transfusion of blood or blood by-products (only if untested).
Author’s Note: Only a physician can diagnose AIDS. A person can be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and look and feel healthy for a very long time. Do not donate blood in order to learn your HIV status. In many countries, blood collection agencies are not required by law to notify donors if their blood tests positive for HIV.
World AIDS Day is observed annually on December 1. On this date, we are often encouraged to get tested for HIV so we can access the medicines and treatments available to persons living with HIV. Because HIV tests detect the presence of HIV antibodies, health practitioners encourage those individuals being tested to return in three-to-six months to be re-tested in the event they were infected before their bodies developed the antibodies that register on the HIV test. Author’s Note: This waiting period is known as the “window of opportunity” or “window period.”
Whenever asked why World AIDS Day and National HIV Testing Day are observed on two different dates, I always explain to the curious about the “window period” and that World AIDS Day and National Testing Day are actually six months apart. It seems to make sense to most people as rarely have I ever been questioned on this.
Former U. S. President Barack Obama was the very first sitting president to be publicly tested for HIV. He not only took an oral-swab test publicly, but he and then-First Lady Michelle Obama also publicly received an HIV rapid-test while visiting in Kenya (as shown below). Leading by example is one of the true signs of a great statesman.
The late Princess Diana was among the first world leaders who publicly touched a person living with HIV more than twenty years ago. She was also seen cuddling a baby living with HIV. Her Royal Highness instilled compassion and service into the hearts and minds of both of her son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. Prince Harry (shown below) has publicly been tested for HIV not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the Commonwealth.
I encourage everyone who has not done so to consider being tested for HIV. We are all a part of everyone with whom we have been sexually active. It only takes one sexual encounter without a condom to put us at risk for the virus that causes AIDS. Early detection of infection saves lives through treatment. The test is the first step in knowing our HIV status and Knowledge = Power.
For additional information on National Testing Day including a summary of 4 reasons to get tested and 3 reasons to get retested, please click on the link below:
During GLBTQ Nude Pride Month, one of the strongest indicators of our Pride is our self-love. In the words of the infamous diva of drag queens, RuPaul:
Happy National HIV Testing Day!