For the estimated quarter of a million Americans who are unaware if they are HIV positive or not, knowing their status could save their lives and the lives of others. In an effort to decrease the spread of HIV and AIDS in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is recognizing today, June 27, as National HIV Testing Day and encouraging residents to learn their status.
More than 89,000 people in Michigan are tested for HIV every year at publicly supported sites, and approximately 400 test positive. Michigan data from April 2012 indicates 19,300 individuals are currently living with HIV. Of those, only about 14,800 actually have been diagnosed while the remainder is unaware.
"This national initiative reminds us that prevention and control of HIV is an individual, as well as a community responsibility," said Olga Dazzo, director of the MDCH. "It's so encouraging to see so many communities rallying around this issue and providing the testing necessary to help their residents' live healthier lives."
The National Testing Day theme, "Take the Test, Take Control", is aimed at motivating individuals to be tested and to learn their status. Those who test positive should get treatment, and those whose test negative should assess their risk and any behaviors they engage in that may be putting them at risk.
Today, local health departments and community-based organizations are working in collaboration to provide HIV testing opportunities for at-risk populations. These opportunities are provided at mobile clinics, as well as outreach efforts at bars, parks, churches and community-wide events. In Michigan, special events are planned to raise awareness and promote HIV testing among Michigan residents.
Testing for HIV can be anonymous or confidential and is offered through a variety of options. Testing is conducted by either a traditional blood draw finger stick, or orally using a swab that gently collects cells in the cheek and gum area inside the mouth. Both methods provide quick and accurate results. There is also the option for a rapid HIV test at some testing sites, which takes only 20 minutes to obtain a preliminary test result.