Today (and every December 1st) is World AIDS Day. Do you know anyone living with HIV disease? Or anyone who has died of AIDS? With over a million Americans living with HIV disease, odds are good that someone in your life either has or will be affected by this infection. The scary part is that only 5 out of 6 infected individuals are aware of their HIV status...which means ONE in SIX people infected with HIV are completely UNAWARE they carry and can spread the disease.
This silent presence of HIV is the very reason that back in 2006, the CDC changed screening recommendations to state that EVERYONE aged 13-64 should be tested once for HIV, regardless of perceived risk factors. People at high risk should be re-screened annually, which certainly includes sex workers and injection drug users, but ALSO includes both gay AND heterosexual people "who themselves or whose sex partners have had more than one sex partner since their most recent HIV test." Let me say it again- even if you have had only one new partner since you were last tested, it's time to get tested again this year.
HIV is not tucked away back in some dark corner of our society with drug addicts and prostitutes. Heterosexual transmission is the primary source (84%) of new infections in American women, causing nearly 7000 new cases in 2010. 1 in 4 new HIV infections occurs in young people (ages 13-24). If you are sexually active, it is imperative to know YOUR HIV status, and that of any potential new partners.
I love the #FacingAIDS campaign, because putting familiar faces on unfamiliar diseases is a terrific way to promote awareness and remove stigma. By the way, the #FacingAIDS pictures do not at all imply these people have HIV disease- simply that they realize that the "face" of HIV can look like ANYONE, and this picture is to encourage everyone to get tested and be certain they know their HIV status. HIV doesn't care how much money you make, where you live or how you dress...it is an equal opportunity virus.
On this World AIDS Day, please make a commitment to know your HIV status.
BOTTOM LINE: Every American aged 13-64 should be tested for HIV disease- if you have not been checked, get tested!