By: Jennifer C. Sarrett, PhD
The testing campaign, titled Doing It, includes a website where individuals can gather information about HIV/AIDS testing, collect materials to promote the campaign, and find testing centers near you. As part of the Act Against AIDS initiative, this campaign encourages everyone to include HIV testing as part of ones regular health routine. To do so, the website includes short videos of people in the community—from everyday people to celebrities—with various social identities discussing the importance of getting tested. These videos include strategies for asking if partners have been tested, ways to get tested, and how to stay healthy when in relationships with an HIV-positive partner.
These efforts come alongside a December 3, 2015 essay by Dr. Thomas Frieden, the current director of the CDC, in which he discussed both the progress of HIV/AIDS care in the U.S. and the ongoing challenges. Published in the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine, Friedan recounts advancements in HIV awareness, testing, and medications, noting that new infection rates have been decreasing. However, there is still a gap in treatment access, especially for effective antiretroviral treatments (ART) as well as a shift in who is infected with most new infections occurring in young gay and bisexual men, especially among African-American men. There have also been outbreaks associated with the sharing of injection drug paraphernalia, which coincides with recent increases in opioid addition.
The World Health Organization reports that there were about 36.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2014 and 2 million new infections per year. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, comprising around 70% of the world’s new infections. In this country, the CDC reports that, as of the end of 2012, 1.2 million people in the U.S. were living with HIV and around 12.8% of these individuals are unaware of their status. We have about 50,000 new infections per year in this country. The CDC recommends that HIV testing and opt-out HIV screening (i.e., telling a patient the testing will occur unless the patient specifically declines) be a part of regular clinical care for anyone aged 15 to 65. High risk individuals, which include persons who are injection-drug users, sex workers, those with infected partners, men who have sex with men, and individuals whose partners have had one or more partners since their last HIV test, should be tested at least once a year. The WHO recommends HIV testing service follows the 5 C’s: “informed Consent, Confidentiality, Counseling, Correct test results and Connection (linkage to care, treatment and other services.”
The message is clear: we have made great strides in HIV/AIDS care and detection, but there is still a long way to go. The two initiatives launched last month are part of the CDC’s efforts to continue addressing issue related to HIV/AIDS care in targeted and effective ways. Dr. Frieden called for “patient empowerment, community engagement, clinical excellence, and public health focus on outcomes and impact”, and these strategies are heeding this call. Regardless of current status or presumed risk, everyone should check out these new initiatives, share with those in your community, and use these tools as platforms to get involved or start conversations about the current state of HIV/AIDS in our local and national contexts.
- Frieden, Thomas. (2015). Applying public health principles to the HIV epidemic—How are we doing? New England Journal of Medicine, 373, 2281-2287.
- Branson, Bernard M., et al. (2006). Revised recommendations for HIB testing of adults, adolescents, and pregnant women in health-care settings. MMWR, 55(RR14), 1-17.