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Dear Colleague Letters

National HIV Testing Day 2014


June 27, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Today is the 20th National HIV Testing Day, a time to act by promoting HIV testing and early diagnosis across the United States. The theme of this annual action day—Take the Test. Take Control.—sends the message that it is time to step up, get tested, and know your status. When a person knows his or her HIV status, they are more likely to take steps to protect their own health and that of their partners.

An important fact to emphasize on HIV Testing Day is that half of the nearly 50,000 new HIV infections each year are transmitted by people who do not know that they are HIV-positive. This is alarming, but also helpful in guiding our efforts by identifying where the most work is needed to help reduce the number of new HIV infections each year.

HIV testing is a proven gateway to treatment and is a key part of our prevention efforts. With early diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV can stay healthy for many years. In addition, people who know that they have HIV reduce their risk behavior and can lower their viral loads through the consistent use of ART, which greatly reduces the risk of spreading HIV.

For people who test negative, there are a number of steps they can take to stay negative—use condoms, take pre-exposure prophylaxis if appropriate, limit the number of partners, choose less risky sexual behaviors, and get checked for STDs.

Also, CDC released a new recommendation yesterday for a new approach for HIV testing in laboratories that capitalizes on the latest technology to improve diagnosis of acute infection. This is the earliest stage of HIV infection when people are most likely to transmit the virus. Identifying acute infections has long been one of our nation's biggest HIV prevention challenges, since these infections eluded traditional testing technologies. But with consistent and widespread use of this new testing method, we can diagnose people several weeks earlier than before. CDC is supporting laboratories to adopt this new approach as quickly as possible.

CDC recommends that everyone between 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care, and that people at increased risk—gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs, or people with multiple sex partners—get tested at least once a year. When implemented, these guidelines have proved effective. As reported in yesterday’s MMWR, routine HIV screening programs implemented in two urban health settings increased the percentage of patients tested and identified patients who were previously undiagnosed or who were previously diagnosed but not getting medical care.

Thanks to these and many other efforts, we are making some progress in reducing the number of people with undiagnosed HIV. Since 2006, the number decreased 9%, from 199,748 to 180,900 in 2010. But too many people remain undiagnosed: one in six overall and even more in some groups.

CDC supports testing by

  • Awarding $55 million over 5 years to 34 community-based organizations to provide HIV testing to populations disproportionately affected by HIV, especially blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and gay and bisexual men.
  • Seeking to identify, through the 3 year MSM Testing Initiative, at least 3,000 gay and bisexual men with HIV who were previously unaware of their infection and linking at least 85% to care.
  • Promoting Act Against AIDS campaigns that focus on raising awareness of HIV and reducing the risk of infection among the hardest-hit populations—gay and bisexual men, African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos. Our newest campaign, Start Talking. Stop HIV. promotes open communication between gay and bisexual men about testing and other prevention measures. In addition:

National HIV Testing Day reminds all of us that we must act; get tested; and get in treatment, if needed, to help save lives. Today and throughout the year, join us in our efforts. Many options are available: asking a doctor about testing, visiting National HIV and STD Testing Resources, calling 1-800-CDC-INFO, texting a ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948), or getting a home test kit at a drugstore or online.

Thank you for your work and your continued commitment to reach all who do not know the facts about HIV prevention and treatment, who remain at high risk, and who have not yet been tested or connected to treatment. Together we will continue to provide life-saving information and support to ensure more people are tested for HIV and more know their HIV status. Together, we can reduce the toll of HIV in the United States.

Sincerely,

/Jonathan Mermin/
Jonathan H. Mermin, M.D., MPH
Director
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/nchhstp

/Kenneth G. Castro/
RADM Kenneth G. Castro, M.D.
Commanding Flag Officer,
CDC/ATSDR Commissioned Corps
Acting Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
NCHHSTP
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 
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