June 27 is observed as National HIV Testing Day each year to encourage people to get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and know their status. It also emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone between the ages of 13–64 to get tested at least once as part of a routine health screening. The theme for 2020 is ‘Knowing’—knowing your status, your risk, and your treatment options. Since due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, facility based service and in-person contact is limited, self-testing is a feasible option. According to the CDC there are 1.1 million people in the U.S. with HIV.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the cells that help to fight infection in the body. This makes a person more vulnerable to infections and diseases. It is spread by coming in contact with the infected person’s bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, breast milk and pre-seminal fluid. Currently there is no cure for HIV, but with medication it can be controlled. If left untreated, HIV progresses to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is mainly spread by:
Having unprotected (without a condom or medication to treat HIV) vaginal or anal sex
Sharing drug equipment (injection) of a HIV positive person
Through proper medication, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives without transferring HIV to their partners. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are two effective measures to prevent getting HIV through sex or drug use.
According to the CDC, a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa has been identified as the source of infection. Scientists believe that SIV or simian immunodeficiency virus (chimpanzee version of the immunodeficiency virus) was likely transmitted to humans when humans hunted them for meat and came in contact with their blood and the virus mutated into HIV. Research reveals that HIV has existed in the United States since at least the mid to late 1970s.