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Get your facility ready for HIV Testing Day
Is your facility participating in National HIV Testing Day on June 27? If not, you may be missing an important community outreach opportunity to help people learn their HIV status.
The National Association of People with AIDS started National HIV Testing Day in 1995. Every year, on June 27th, local organizations across the United States work with community partners to promote early diagnosis and HIV-testing. Even with increased emphasis on testing, the U.S. HIV epidemic is far from over, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Every year, about 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV, and nearly 18,000 with AIDS die," says Kevin Fenton, MD, PhD, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. "More than one million people in this country are living with the virus."
What the CDC recommends.
The CDC recommends that all Americans between the ages of 13-64 be tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of medical care, regardless of their risk behavior. The CDC also recommends that those at higher risk for HIV get tested at least annually; this population includes gay and bisexual men, anyone with multiple sexual partners, those with HIV-positive partners, and injection-drug users and their sex partners.1
The CDC has earmarked funding for state and local health departments to increase access to HIV testing services. Such funding has resulted in more than 1.4 million HIV tests administered each year.1 The CDC also is investing about $142 million into an HIV testing initiative targeted to populations heavily affected by HIV: African-Americans, Latinos, gay and bisexual men of all races, and injection-drug users. As of 2010, more than 1.4 million additional people had been tested as part of the initiative, 10,000 had been newly diagnosed with HIV, and most of those tested had been linked to care.1
When it comes to testing success, take a tip from the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. Houston public health officials will kick off the fifth observance of "Hip Hop for HIV Awareness Intervention" this year with solid experience under their belts: about 15,000 teens and young adults took part in the 2010 Hip Hop for HIV Awareness Intervention, a four-day HIV and syphilis screening event.
The Houston health department has conducted "Testing for Tickets" for 15 years as an incentive to get citizens to learn their HIV status, says Barry Barnes, event coordinator. Hip Hop for HIV Awareness is an extension of that effort, he says.
Houston was among 10 citiesAtlanta; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark, NJ; New York City; and Washington, DCthat took part in the first Be Greater Than AIDS: Get Yourself Tested Week in June 2010. The multi-city event was designed to encourage Americansparticularly Black Americansto be tested for HIV and other STDs in the week leading up to National HIV Testing Day. The Greater Than AIDS campaign, developed and distributed by the Black AIDS Media Partnership, is produced in collaboration with Act Against AIDS, a major five-year communications effort by the CDC to refocus attention on HIV and AIDS. Black Americans account for nearly half of new HIV infections in the United States, while representing just 12%of the population.2 The Greater Than AIDS campaign emphasizes six specific actions in response to the epidemic: being informed; using condoms; getting testedand treated, as needed; speaking openly; acting with respect; and getting involved.
To kick off its testing events, Houston public health officials relied on local media to help spread information. On the day of the national testing event, actress and HIV activist Regina King and Houston Mayor Annise Parker were interviewed on local radio, accompanied by Marlene McNeese-Ward, bureau chief for the HIV Prevention Program at the Houston health department. The event was taped for the local television station, which aired the complete story that evening, says Barnes. "I think the secret, which I think a lot of cities are missing, is that they do need a specialist in the media field to make sure the message gets out," says Barnes.
The health department has broadened the scope of its efforts each year during the HIV testing event, says Barnes. For the 2010 event, officials added screenings for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as immunizations. "We are trying to mobilize the health department into using all of the components within our own building," says Barnes. "We have tuberculosis. We have immunizations. We have STDs and HIV. It's all the same demographic."