Over the past couple of decades, numerous HIV/AIDS observance days have been established to address the epidemic’s impact in different communities. Among others, there are:
* National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (February 7)
* National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10)
* National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 20)
* National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (May 19)
* National Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (June 8)
* National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (October 15)
* World AIDS Day (December 1)
While these days are observed by community organizations through health fairs and screening events, or in the media with stories on the challenges and advancements in fighting the disease, they don’t always involve a stark, individual call to action. More people may become aware, but without a specific goal in mind, it’s less clear whether they're actually altering their behavior in any way to reduce their risk of infection.
Today, National HIV Testing Day, is a bit different. Founded in 1995 by the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), it has a singular, focused objective for everyone: Get tested. “Test-and-treat is not the whole answer to ending the epidemic,” says the NAPWA website, “But it's an indispensable first step.” To find a testing site near you, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at hivtest.org.
Check out how government officials in the beltway, including the president, public health leaders, and several members of Congress who walked the walk last Friday – getting tested themselves – are also encouraging Americans to “celebrate” today by taking action.
“National HIV Testing Day reminds each of us to do our part in fighting HIV/AIDS and get tested. It has been thirty years since we witnessed the emergence of HIV, an illness from which roughly 600,000 Americans have died and with which more than one million Americans live. … One in five Americans living with HIV is not aware of their infection and [recent] research highlights the imperative of making sure people know their HIV status and getting those who do have HIV into care. All of us have a responsibility to ourselves and those around us to know our status and reduce our risk. So on this National HIV Testing Day and every day, I encourage every American to join the fight against HIV/AIDS and get tested.”
—President Barack Obama
“On this National HIV Testing Day, we have good news to report. In just three years, CDC’s expanded HIV testing efforts facilitated almost 3 million HIV tests in hard-hit areas across the nation, helping nearly 20,000 Americans living with HIV learn their status for the first time. …While these signs are promising, our work to end the HIV epidemic is far from over. … The majority of Americans have still never taken an HIV test. Many people don’t recognize that they’re at risk for HIV infection, even if they engage in behaviors that put them at risk. Others may fear what a positive diagnosis could mean for them, despite the effective treatments now available. And many people don’t yet realize that testing today is quick, easy and confidential.
On this National HIV Testing Day, don’t let fear or misinformation stop you from getting tested. I strongly encourage all Americans to get tested for HIV, and to text and tweet hivtest.org to your friends and family to encourage them to do the same.”
—Kevin Fenton, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
“Today I received a rapid mouth swab HIV test in Washington where I was found to be negative. I wanted to show the importance of being tested on a regular basis; it’s the only way you can know your status. … The stigma of being tested for HIV is still present in many communities. By renewing my commitment, I hope to show those in my district and around the country that this simple test could possibly stop the transition of HIV to another person.”
—Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
“Of course, HIV testing is not enough. We must also make sure that those who test positive can get the treatment they need. … I am deeply concerned that the progress we have made against this devastating disease is in danger of being reversed. There are growing numbers of infected Americans who are on waiting lists for ADAP [AIDS dug assistance programs] because Congress has not provided sufficient funding for this life-saving program. … Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has made repeated efforts to repeal, defund and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and allow health insurance companies to continue to deny coverage to Americans living with HIV/AIDS.
I call upon all Americans to take responsibility for their health and get tested for HIV, and I call upon my colleagues in Congress to maintain funding for HIV/AIDS research, prevention, testing and treatment and support full implementation of the Affordable Care Act so that people living with HIV/AIDS can continue to be productive members of our society.”
—Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)