HIV Prevention, Awareness and Testing

George Maris,Education,HIV, prevention, AIDS

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George Maris
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In the fight against HIV, I can tell you that few things are moreimportant than testing. It's an essential step in reducing the numberof new HIV infections and extending the lives of those who are infected.

Put simply, HIV testing saves lives.

As a CDC official, I've spoken with hundreds of people who have madethe decision to get tested. Many described the relief they felt whenthey found out they were HIV-negative.

Thanks to the HIV test,they could take steps to make sure they and their partners stay thatway. I've also met people who found out they were HIV-positive.

Don't Miss A generation born with HIV/AIDS defies the oddsAfrican couples urged to get HIV 'love test' In Depth: Commentaries Although initially worried about their diagnosis and their future, theywere thankful they had their infection diagnosed early, and were ableto live long, healthy and productive lives with HIV.They had the knowledge and will to protect their partners frominfection, or to prevent their infants from becoming HIV infected.

I recently met one young woman who learned about her HIV infectionafter being diagnosed during routine HIV testing in pregnancy. Bygetting tested early, and having access to effective treatment, herchild was born without HIV, and she now has two healthy children.

She is a living testament that life does not stop with this disease.Instead, knowledge of her HIV status along with effective treatment andcare has given her the freedom, resolve and respect to make choices toprotect her life and the lives of those she loves.

Yet today,not everyone has benefited from knowing their HIV status. Far too manyindividuals with HIV don't know that they're infected. CDC estimates that one in five people with HIV in the United States is unaware of being infected.

That's more than 200,000 Americans who may be transmitting the virus toothers without knowing it, and who can't take advantage of HIVtreatments that could prolong and improve the quality of their lives.As we mark National HIV Testing Day on Saturday, I strongly encourageall Americans to get tested for HIV.

At CDC, our goal is to makeHIV testing as routine as a blood pressure check. HIV testing has neverbeen quicker, easier or more accessible. In fact, with rapid HIV tests,results can be available in as little as 20 minutes, and tests can begiven in your doctor's office or other locations in your community,such as churches and college campuses.

To ensure that allAmericans know their HIV status, CDC recommends that everyone betweenthe ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV as part of routine medicalcare -- regardless of their perceived risk for infection. CDC alsorecommends that those at increased risk, such as sexually active gayand bisexual men, get tested at least annually. We are also workingwith our partners to bring HIV testing services directly to communitiesacross the nation.

Increased HIV testing will make it possibleto significantly reduce the number of new infections. Researchindicates the majority of new sexually transmitted HIV infections aretransmitted by people who do not know they are HIV-infected. Studiesalso show that most people who test HIV-positive take steps to protecttheir partners from infection.

Nearly 30 years after the startof the epidemic, far too many people continue to be diagnosed late inthe course of their infection. Too many times, I've heard stories frompeople who went to the emergency room after a few days of flu-likesymptoms. Once there, doctors conduct tests and inform them they haveboth pneumonia and AIDS. They never knew they were HIV infected, andyet they had the virus for years.

In fact, data released todayshow that nearly 40 percent of people develop AIDS within just a yearof being diagnosed with HIV. Many of these people could have stayedhealthier if they were diagnosed with HIV and began drug treatment muchearlier. Anti-retroviral treatment can lower the amount of the virus inthe blood, slowing progression from HIV to AIDS.

We mustremember that AIDS still kills in this country -- more than 14,000people die every year. Yet we have the tools to diagnose an HIVinfection early, to begin life-prolonging treatments to preventprogression to AIDS, and to ensure a strong quality of life forHIV-infected people.

But without a test, there is no diagnosis -- and no treatment.

 


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George Maris

March 30, 2010 at 10:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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