This Saturday, June 27th, is National HIV Testing Day. The annual event, created to encourage everyone to get tested for HIV, began in 1995 and is organized by the National Association of People with AIDS. Over 1.2 million people over the age of 13 are currently living with an HIV/AIDS infection in U.S. with an additional 50,000 infections being added every year. People between the ages of 13 and 24 account for 25 percent of all new HIV infections and it is said that 1 in 7 of them don’t even know they’re positive.
Prior to 1986, there was no such thing as an HIV test. The virus itself had only been identified three years prior at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Early iterations of the HIV test were not the reliable tests that we have today, but anything was better than nothing during the onset of the AIDS epidemic. A positive diagnosis back then was viewed as a death sentence because the anti-retroviral therapy (ART) of today didn’t exist. AZT, the first treatment for slowing down the progress of the virus, wasn’t available until 1987. There was no way to prolong your life with the virus and the slow death brought about by the virus was painful and ugly.
Regular HIV and STD testing is the only way to ensure that you know your status and can adequately protect your sexual health. When HIV testing was first made available to the public, it was a slow operation that often resulted in false results. Some gay men would make donations at the blood bank because the turnaround time was quicker for blood donation screening than an HIV test administered by a doctor. The evolution of HIV testing has resulted in today’s extremely reliable and quick methods of testing blood for HIV. Test results are processed quickly now and can be delivered within 1-2 days after testing. While a standard HIV Antibody test measures antibodies that take 1-3 months to build up in your system, there is also a fourth generation HIV Early Detection test that detects the antibodies and the p24 antigen as soon as 9 to 11 days after exposure to the virus. Modern HIV tests are also virtually pain-free.
The only way to be certain of your STD and HIV status is by getting tested often and using protection. Take control of your sexual health today. Get tested.