National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), observed annually on June 27, encourages you to get tested for HIV and know your status. First observed in 1995, NTHD promotes awareness about HIV testing and seeks to reduce the stigma around HIV testing and dispel myths about the virus itself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 5 people living with HIV are unaware that they have the virusand are not receiving medical care or taking preventative steps to halt the spread of HIV.
The best sex is, in my opinion, informed and safe. Knowing your HIV/STD status is empowering and getting tested in a tool you can use to take control of your sexuality and sexual health. Whether you're using barrier methods like condoms or dental dams, or you're having monogamous, unprotected sex, it is important to know not only your own HIV status, but that of your partner(s) as well. I know that for some people, getting tested can be nerve-wrecking, even if you're almost 100% sure that you're HIV-negative. As a sexually active woman, I know that anything can happen and while I trust my partner, getting tested is for my own peace of mind and self-care.
With advances in medicine and proper medical care, people with HIV are generally living longer, healthier lives. Most insurance plans offer financial assistance for those who need HIV medications and doctors are more informed now about various options for treatment of HIV-positive patients. Celebrities like Magic Johnson and Rosie O'Donnell do tremendous work raising awareness of HIV, promoting HIV prevention education, and reducing stigma around HIV testing. Still, there are people who are terrified of finding out that they might have HIV and NHTD encourages those people to seek support and get tested. You can't get proper treatment and care if you don't know your status.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the sale of over-the-counter, at-home HIV test kits to provide another testing option for those nervous about going to the doctor or concerned about privacy. The hope is that those who would not otherwise get tested at a clinic or primary care doctor's office will go to a local drug store, purchase the test, follow the clear instructions, and test themselves. Some critics question whether or not testing for HIV at home, with no in-person post-test counseling immediately available, is the safest option. Proponents point out that there is support available by calling phone number provided with the kits. The kits also recommend verifying the test results with a doctor as soon as possible. While I have my own reservations about at-home testing, I will agree that having more options for testing is a good thing and that people should choose what works best for them.
Don't know where to get tested? Check out this testing site locator and find a place offering free HIV testing today.