This blog was written by Amaria Beecham, Medical Legal Partnership Coordinator VISTA at Legal Council for Health Justice.
National HIV Testing Day has been observed annually on June 27 since 1995. This day was established to increase awareness about the importance of HIV testing, early diagnosis, and early access to care. Early detection helps limit the spread of HIV and saves lives, which is why access to HIV testing is one of the most important tools for stopping the spread of HIV. There is power in knowing your HIV status.
The theme of this year’s National HIV Testing Day is “My Test, My Way,” emphasizing access to options for the different circumstances of individuals’ lives. Many organizations offer free testing options for the general public, and there are multiple types of HIV tests available. There are self-test options that can be used in your own space and tests that can give results in less than ten minutes. The CDC and other partnering organizations are currently giving away free home testing kits, making testing more accessible than ever.
Due to the stigma surrounding HIV, many people have never received appropriate education regarding personal safety and testing options. In 2018, 19% of all new HIV diagnosis were women and in 2019, heterosexual men accounted for 7 % of all new HIV diagnosis. Anyone can contract HIV, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, or economic status. HIV can affect anyone, which is why it is important that everyone knows their HIV status.
According to the CDC, an estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. live with HIV, and 14 percent (1 in 7) do not know that they have the virus. Although HIV currently does not have a cure, there are medications that allow individuals to live long, healthy lives with the virus. Medications available today can suppress the virus so well that it is rendered undetectable and untraceable. Those who do not have HIV but are at risk can use the medication Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which reduces an individual’s risk of contracting HIV if they are exposed. If you are interested in PrEP, please contact your provider to learn more about your options.
Legal Council began as an organization dedicated to advancing the rights and quality of life for people living with HIV. Today, our HIV program helps with a variety of legal issues such as HIV confidentiality and discrimination, tenant rights, SNAP, Medicaid, and Social Security advocacy. We work closely with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and other Ryan White-funded organizations to ensure that we are meeting the legal needs of people living with HIV.