National HIV Testing Day is June 27

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials are promoting the 19th annual National HIV Testing Day, a time to promote one of the best tools for HIV prevention.

More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, but one in five is not aware of their infection. Five hundred Montanans are currently living with HIV or AIDS. Approximately 20 new HIV infections are reported each year.

According to the Montana Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a statewide telephone health survey, only 31 percent of Montana adults aged 18 to 64 years have ever been tested for HIV.

“Every teen and adult who may be at risk should know their HIV status,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “Talk to your health care provider or health department about your risks and getting tested.”

HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual activity with an infected person, or by sharing hypodermic needles with someone who is infected. Once a person is diagnosed with HIV, it’s vital that they are linked to treatment and care immediately. When individuals choose not to get tested or do not understand the behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection there is an increased risk of progressing to AIDS. If a person is diagnosed, immediate medical treatment is imperative to keep the virus from replicating and causing more damage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone aged 15 to 65 should be screened for HIV infection.

Teens younger than 15 and adults older than 65 also should be screened if they are at increased risk for HIV infection. All pregnant women, including women in labor, should be screened. CDC recommends an HIV test once a year for people at increased risk, such as gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs, or people with multiple sex partners.

HIV testing is widely available, and getting tested is quick and easy. Anyone wanting to be tested can ask their doctor for a test or find a testing site by visiting the DPHHS website. “Knowing you HIV status empowers you and helps you take care of yourself and others,” says Stacy Russell, DPHHS HIV Prevention Coordinator.

More information is available at www.dphhs.mt.gov or at CCHD’s HIV Program page.