CDC Statement on National HIV Testing Day
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), a day to promote HIV testing and encourage people to know their HIV status.
CDC and its partners have promoted NHTD since 1995. New data confirm that these efforts are paying off. According to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), an analysis of CDC-funded HIV testing events from 2011 to 2014 shows a significant increase in HIV testing and new HIV diagnoses around NHTD. The effectiveness of using NHTD to promote screening and reach populations at disproportionate risk for HIV underscores the importance of the testing activities occurring today and the work we have done to encourage all adults to get tested through our Doing It campaign, which has been recently released as part of the Act Against AIDS initiative.
Another recent MMWR reveals that we still have work to do to ensure providers are following CDC recommendations about incorporating HIV testing into routine health care. Data from 2009 to 2012 showed that males aged 15 to 39 years frequently visited physician offices, yet HIV testing was not performed at 99% of appointments. Males in this age group accounted for more than half of HIV diagnoses in 2014. It is essential we continue to educate providers about how they can protect their patients. As part of its HIV Screening. Standard Care. program that aims to reach primary care providers, CDC recently launched Serostatus Matters, a video-based education program that helps providers make HIV testing a part of routine clinical practice.
CDC supports multiple other initiatives to make HIV testing more widespread and accessible, including:
- Providing $339 million annually to state and local health departments to develop and implement comprehensive HIV prevention programs that include HIV testing, implementation of CDC’s screening recommendations, and linkage to care for those diagnosed with HIV.
- Funding health departments to collaborate with community-based organizations (CBOs) so that they can implement effective HIV prevention strategies like targeted HIV testing for those at greatest risk.
- Awarding community-based organizations more than $55 million over five years to provide HIV testing and linkage to care for young gay and bisexual men of color, transgender youth of color, and their partners.
- Conducting research and evaluation regarding the most up-to-date laboratory diagnostic techniques for HIV and issuing recommendations for testing.
- Offering guidance for HIV testing in nonclinical settings such as mobile testing units, bathhouses, parks, shelters, syringe services programs, health-related storefronts, homes, and other social service organizations.
- Piloting HIV testing programs in pharmacies that serve communities hardest hit by HIV.
- Working with other Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy to increase access to new testing technologies that allow for early detection of HIV and broaden the window of opportunity for effective interventions during the initial acute phase of infection—which is the time when HIV is most likely to be transmitted to others.
HIV testing is the entry point to the continuum of prevention and treatment services. With improved technologies (e.g., rapid combination tests), people can know their status sooner after becoming infected than ever before. For people whose test results are negative, HIV testing can be an opportunity to learn about a variety of prevention options, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). For those with positive test results, HIV testing is the first step for linkage to medical care that can keep them healthy for many years and greatly lower their chance of transmitting HIV to others. Expanding access to testing services is critical for reducing HIV.
In the United States, an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and 1 in 8 don’t know they have it. A CDC study in 2015 showed that 30% of new HIV cases were transmitted from people who did not know they were infected. CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. People at increased risk (e.g., gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs or exchange sex for drugs or money, people with other sexually transmitted diseases) should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from even more frequent testing, (for example, every 3 to 6 months).
Today, HIV testing events are occurring around the country in health care settings and a variety of community venues. By working to increase the number of persons who are aware of their HIV status, we will be one step closer to our goal of an AIDS-free generation.
Thank you for your commitment to HIV prevention on NHTD and every day.
Jonathan H. Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., is director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eugene McCray, M.D., is the director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.