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.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Snaketat

    As a 52 year old gay man, AIDS has been a significant issue during nearly my entire adult life. As a result, I have accepted safe sex practices and get twice a year HIV tests (both blood and oral swab).

    I think it would be great if this was standard as part of my annual physical–but it is not. I depend on the local LGBT center and HIV organization for free testing.

    Still the main thing is for people to get tested and use safe sex practices. If everyone-gay or straight–did that, this issue would would become less lethal.

    June 30, 2008 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Eric

    Could someone comment on this recent news article: "The head of the AIDS efforts at the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Kevin De Cock, has said the threat of a heterosexual AIDS pandemic is officially over and decades of predictions that the disease would spread through general populations across the globe were wrong except in sub-Saharan Africa." and "According to James Chin, a clinical professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley and author of the new book The Aids Pandemic, it was always a "glorious myth" that there would be an "HIV epidemic in general populations". That myth was the product of "misunderstanding or deliberate distortions of HIV epidemiology" by Unaids and other Aids activists, says Chin"

    As someone not at "risk" and in light of these recent news items, does it really make sense to HIV test *everyone* when resources for health care are finite?

    June 30, 2008 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Love

    This is a wonderful opportunity for those that want and need to know, or even suspected they had been exposed due to a partner, partner's past /behavior or their own. This is a way (hopefully) to postively identifiy the correct number of cases since the testing of a company oral swab test rendered inaccurate results, but the blood test proved negative. I believe the blood test may be more accurate and allow those to be properly informed and further postive health intiatives. Whereas I reside, there is a Health Dept., but if you do not have medical isnurance you are billed. It has become a clinic, perhaps they need this program. In the past, I seen billboards that encouraged HIV/AIDS education and awareness, but as time has moved on no boards appear in public, maybe because of programs and expense. Keep us informed

    June 30, 2008 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Darryl

    I had a blood test a few months ago.

    Of course it's a good idea...if it's free, then why not? This is a great way to raise awareness. It would help people detect the disease from early and not when it's too late. People would have to make the decision to get tested though...some don't want to know and that's a problem.

    June 30, 2008 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sherri

    I worked in the medical field for over 35 years, 23 of them in acute care, fifteen of those in the OB Dept. We began pressuring the administration at the hospital and the county public health officials as early as 1980 to make testing for all STD's and HIV, AIDS mandatory admission labs for OB patients. Non discrimnatory- results just as confidential as all the other labs we would do.It would have meant better care for the mothers and babies. We were being flooded at the time with a huge influx of Hmong mothers. Not AIDS nor HIV infected- but commonly carrying HEP B. Forewarned is forearmed. So many dibilitating and lethal diseases are now rampant across every strata of society. The culture of massive amounts of sexual intimacy with enormous numbers of partners- many for just the one encounter – just fuels the rampage. Some individuals can potentially infect thousands of people. Mass testing is a viable , though daunting, task. In the late Fifties and early Sixties- millions of Americans were given oral Polio vaccine- and it made tremendous strides against the disease. This situation will not get better, nor go away. I fear that soon it will mutate beyond what medicine is able to offer for management- in part because unprotected sex between partners who are not aware of their HIV status. What a shame

    June 30, 2008 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lala

    I strongly agree that having the hiv test should be mandatory with the physical test. atleast to control the madness. there a lot of inocent people affected. we can atleast control it better this way our try to prevent it more.

    July 11, 2008 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. | MelatoninFaq

    HIV is a nasty disease. Once you get it, there is no cure for it. Safe sex and abstinence is the only way to avoid getting it.

    December 7, 2009 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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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.