It's still crucial to get tested for HIV
The Doctors - | 12/3/2010, 6 a.m.
More than 56,000 people in the USA will contract HIV this year -- the human immunodeficiency virus that can develop into AIDS -- and chances are most will be gay or bisexual men or African Americans. According to new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five men who have sex with men are infected with HIV, and an estimated one in 22 blacks will be diagnosed with the virus in their lifetime (the risk for Hispanics is one in 52, for whites, one in 170). Of the more than 1 million Americans now living with HIV or AIDS, about 20% don't even know they have it.
To help stop the spread of HIV, Step 1 is to get tested. Though there's no cure, the sooner a person is diagnosed, the sooner he or she can start treatments -- a combination of medications help improve the health of people living with the virus as well as dramatically slow the progression from HIV infection to AIDS.
"It is extremely important to test for HIV because so much of it is spread by individuals who don't know they have it, and early treatment is crucial," Dr. Lisa Masterson says. "Anonymous testing is crucial and beneficial, as well as proper physician follow-up. The tests are not 100% accurate, and repeat testing is often necessary."
This past summer, the federal government announced the development of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy, with goals of cutting the number of new HIV infections by 2015, increasing access to care and reducing HIV-related health care disparities. The program also aims to increase the percentage of people who know they have the virus to 90% from 79%.
To get tested, talk to your doctor; or to find a local HIV testing site, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) or visit hivtest.org.