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10 Surprising Things You May Not Know About HIV Testing


For Natiional HIV Testing Day, here are ten things you should know.

1. Charlie Sheen Coming Out Led to Record-Breaking HIV Testing. 
When actor Charlie Sheen came out about being HIV-positive, thousands of men and women responded to the news by getting their own HIV tests. — which does remote testing for sexually transmitted infections — reported record-breaking HIV test kit sales the day Sheen appeared on NBC’s Today show.

2. HIV Tests Are Essential to Staying HIV-negative. 
HIV testing isn’t just for when you’re worried you’ve been exposed. These tests are also essential for those who don’t have HIV and want to remain HIV-negative. For example, in order to get on the HIV-prevention treatment known as PrEP, you have to first test negative and then have regular follow-up testing every few months to confirm the treatment is still working. Plenty of couples take HIV tests before moving in together, or marrying, or deciding to have a threesome. Embrace routine testing.

3. Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding Reduces HIV Testing Around the Country. 
According to Texas Public Radio, when the fallout from an anti-abortion propaganda film led to Texas-wide funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, HIV prevention and care suffered dramatically. Defunding Planned Parenthood nationally would similarly impact HIV testing and efforts to stop the epidemic — including PrEP access — as well as eliminate numerous other health programs in many parts of the U.S.

4. Gay and Bi Teens Aren’t Getting Tested for HIV. 
A study from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research shows that gay and bi boys and men between 13 and 24 have high-risk activities but don’t get HIV tests. Why? It’s not because they think they are invincible. The most common barriers were knowing where to get tested, getting transportation, and fears about maintaining their privacy.

5. Getting Doctors to do Routine Testing is Harder Than You’d Think. 
Dr. Karen E. Mark, head of the California Office of AIDS, has argued that HIV testing in medical settings could replace the need for publically-funded tests. But Kyle Baker from L.A. County Public Health Department says they had trouble convincing the county’s own medical facilities to adopt routine testing. It took “years of working and negotiating with the hospital administration” to get their first hospital to opt-in.

6. Sadly, Prisoners Aren’t Getting Tested. 
Although people who are incarcerated are more likely to have HIV than the general public, most prisons don’t test all inmates. Many offer voluntary HIV tests for those coming into or leaving incarceration, but very few inmates are tested at both ends of the correctional pipeline, making it hard to track if HIV is being transmitted behind bars.

7. HIV Testing Has Changed. 
It used to be that you had to go into a clinic one day to take an HIV test and then wait two unbearable weeks for the results. Now, many places offer rapid, while-you-wait test results. Newer, fourth-generation HIV tests also screen for both the HIV antibodies and the p24 antigen, reducing the time one has to have HIV before it is detectable (around two to six weeks after infection).

8. You Need to Test as Early AND Often as Possible. 
HIV is the most virilent and infectious in the acute stage of transmission; just after it enters a new host. You want to catch the virus as early as possible to avoid transmiting HIV to someone else. Plus, research shows early interventions have wide-ranging, long-term benefits, not the least of which is that you can live as long and healthy a life as your friends who don’t have HIV.

9. Testing Has Gone High-Tech. 
Columbia University researchers invented a device that attaches to a smartphone and can provide accurate HIV testing results in 15 minutes. Other companies have developed USB testing sticks and testing biosensors. 

10. You Don’t Have to Go to a Clinic to Get Tested. 
In addition to doctor’s offices and clinics, you can get HIV tests at your local pharmacy, at nightclubs, thrift stores, and churches.

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Jacob Anderson-Minshall