HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Without treatment, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV testing is integral to HIV prevention, treatment, and care. Knowledge of one’s HIV status enables individuals to engage in HIV treatment and reduce the risk of progression to AIDS.
Here’s more about the importance of routine HIV testing and who should get it.
Who should get screened for HIV
Testing for HIV is the only way for a person to determine if they are living with the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals between the ages of 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once . Those with a higher risk of infection may need to get tested more frequently. Individuals should get tested at least once a year if they :
- Are a man who has had sex with another man.
- Have had anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV.
- Have had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test.
- Have shared needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment (for example, cookers).
- Have exchanged sex for drugs or money.
- Have been diagnosed with or treated for another sexually transmitted disease.
- Have been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB).
- Have had sex with someone who has done anything listed above or with someone whose sexual history you don’t know.
The importance of early detection and treatment
Despite seeing a medical provider, many individuals who are at an increased risk for HIV are currently not receiving regular HIV testing. People who don't know they have HIV have a higher risk of serious medical problems and early death and can unknowingly pass the virus to others. Increasing the number of people who are aware of their HIV status is key to ending the epidemic in the United States.
About one-third of people learn they are infected with HIV less than a year before being diagnosed with AIDS . This means they have already been infected for many years and may not fully benefit from treatment. Routine HIV is an important first step for early detection and can help facilitate an immediate linkage to HIV care and antiretroviral therapy (ART). Starting ART immediately following an HIV diagnosis can prevent disease progression by lowering the amount of virus in the body until the patient achieves viral suppression. Individuals with an undetectable viral load (<200 copies/mL) have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV .
Why people in the United States aren’t getting tested for HIV
As many as 50,000 new HIV infections occur each year, and many of these are transmitted by people who do not know they are HIV-positive . About 13% (153,500) of people with HIV in the United States don't know they have it . Although HIV testing rates have steadily increased over the years, more than half of Americans still have not been tested for HIV in their lifetime .
Reported barriers to HIV testing over the last couple of decades have remained consistent, despite improved service offerings. Lack of access to healthcare, fear and misperceptions about HIV risk, and the testing process itself are key barriers to increasing HIV testing. Additionally, some healthcare settings have not yet made HIV testing a routine part of medical care.
HIV Testing with LetsGetChecked
HIV testing has significant benefits for individuals who are infected with HIV and those who are not. For those who have HIV, testing is the gateway to treatment and care, which can make it possible to live a long, healthy life. And for those without HIV, testing is just as critical because this information can help link them with important prevention services so they can remain HIV-free.
Despite the many benefits of HIV testing, stigma and a lack of access to healthcare prevent many Americans from getting the health insights they need. LetsGetChecked’s at-home healthcare solutions can help bridge care gaps, enabling people to test themselves and receive their results from the comfort and privacy of home.