June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. It is designed to raise awareness and encourage others to take action against this virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV while 1 in 8 are unaware of their status. Here’s what you can do to participate in the national “Doing It” campaign:
Know the Facts
- HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system’s infection-fighting cells.
- HIV can lead to AIDS if not properly treated.
- Currently, there is no effective cure for HIV.
- HIV treatment can extend the life expectancy of those infected.
Know the Risks
HIV can be contracted or transmitted through:
- The exchange of certain body fluids with someone who has HIV.
- Sharing needles or syringes with an infected individual.
- An HIV-positive mom to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding, in some cases.
Know the Best Practices
- Abstain from risky sexual behaviors as much as possible.
- Refrain from having multiple sex partners.
- Take HIV prevention or treatment medication.
- Use condoms with lubricants.
- Don’t share needles.
About 50,000 new HIV infections develop in the U.S. each year. As one of the region’s largest providers of comprehensive HIV services, including education, treatment and prevention, Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) wants to ensure our community has access to resources that safeguard against this terrible disease. We offer a variety of testing, support and education activities and services to individuals across San Diego.
It is important to protect yourself and others. To do so, you must know your status. Getting tested is the only sure way to know if you’re infected. You should also know your partner’s status and encourage them to get tested. FHCSD is here to help and offers free HIV testing at all of our clinics.
Know Your Options
- HIV Testing
- Rapid Test – detects the presence of HIV antibodies within 30 minutes or less.
If your rapid test shows a preliminary positive result, you will be asked to take a confirmatory blood test to see for sure if you really do have HIV infection.
- Individual and Group Education
- Comprehensive Risk Counseling Services
- HIV Case Management
Other options include taking medications PrEP or PEP. Taken daily, PrEP is a prevention method for those who are HIV-negative, but at high risk of becoming infected. To learn more about PrEP and if it’s a good option for you, visit gaymenshealth.org. PEP is a post-exposure medication and should be taken within 72 hours after a potential HIV exposure. PEP should only be used for emergency situations. To learn more, visit cdc.gov.
Educating yourself is the first step, but sharing that knowledge with others is equally important. Talking with friends and family is a good place to start. As you open up conversation, share facts and statistics. You might even learn something new. Also, social is a great platform to share useful information with a lot of people at once. Encourage others to get tested. Post resources and testing locations to reach those who may not feel comfortable talking to you, and prefer privacy. Your voice can make a difference!
For more information on the services available at FHCSD, visit our HIV and Hepatitis Services page. No referral is needed to receive testing or treatment. To schedule your appointment today, call (619) 515-2449.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Gay Men’s Health Services