June 27th, 2008
12:27 PM ET

Getting Tested For HIV

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

You may have heard the news yesterday, that New York City wants everyone in the Bronx tested for HIV (read story).
Sounds like an ambitious project. The New York City Health Department says they are launching their largest ever HIV testing program today. They want every resident of the Bronx - ages 18 to 64 - to know if they do or do not have HIV. They hope that over the next three years, the 250,000 adults living in the Bronx who've never been tested will know if they've been infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

But this is not a local New York effort. It's part of a nationwide campaign. Today is "National HIV Testing Day." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 40 percent of those infected with HIV don’t find out until they're already sick with AIDS. The CDC also reports that more than a million people were living with HIV/AIDS in the United States in 2003. What's really striking is that they say about 1 in 4 of those didn't know they were infected.

Knowing you've been infected with HIV as early as possible is key to living longer. Here's how the CDC's Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS put it: "If you are infected, you can take steps to protect your health and that of your partners as well as seek life-extending medical treatment. People who learn they are not infected can take steps to help ensure they remain uninfected."

Preventing HIV transmission, by avoiding risky behavior (i.e. having unprotected sex or sharing needles), is of course the primary goal of public health officials. But on this 16th "National HIV Testing Day" it's clear that knowing your HIV status is critical too.

If you are wondering where you can get an HIV test, you can find a testing site by clicking on www.hivtest.org. I did and found there are 23 sites within a ten mile radius of CNN.

Advocates would like to see HIV testing as part of everyone's routine health check-up. Have you been recently tested for HIV? Do you think it should be part of your regular medical check-up?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.