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The Goal: HIV Testing for Everyone

The Goal: HIV Testing for Everyone

National HIV Testing Day on June 27 is giving local communities an opportunity to expand awareness of the virus and the benefits of testing.

"Only when every member of a community knows his or her own HIV status can the virus be contained," said Brad Ogilvie, founder of the Mosaic Initiative, a Wheaton, Ill., organization dedicated to HIV awareness and prevention.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the more than 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, about 21% are unaware of their status. CDC guidelines introduced in 2006 encourage health care professionals to offer routine HIV testing to all patients ages 13 to 64.

"When people are tested, they are leading by example. They become educated about HIV and can share information with others," Ogilvie said.

The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy has lengthened the lifespan of those with HIV, but health care educators say they still fight stigma and fear associated with HIV.

"Even people who have engaged in risky behaviors don't want to ask their primary caregivers for a test," said David Tewes, president of Serenity House Counseling Services, an addiction treatment facility in suburban Chicago.

Activists stress that by reducing a patient's viral load, early treatment also lowers the chance that an HIV-positive person will transmit the disease to someone else.

More information about National HIV Testing Day is available from the National Association of People with AIDS.

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