National HIV Testing Day

National HIV Testing Day is observed annually on June 27th to encourage people of all ages to “Take the Test, Take Control.” Richard Opper, Director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services wants Montanans to learn the basics and know the facts about HIV:

“There are Montanans are living with HIV, but are not aware of it, as they do not test as often as recommended. Early diagnosis is critical so that people who are infected can fully benefit from available life-saving treatments.”

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that some people with risk factors get tested more often. Gay and bisexual men, people with more than one sex partner, people with sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and persons who inject drugs are at higher risk and should get tested at least once a year. Other reasons to test are unprotected sex, anonymous sex, multiple partners and needle sharing. Persons who have been sexually assaulted or pregnant or planning to become pregnant also should be tested.

HIV disease is present in Montana. As of December 1st, 2014, 1,277 total cases have been reported in the state since 1985 and 693 were Montana residents at the time of diagnosis. Currently, 566 persons are known to be living with HIV infection in Montana. An average of 20 new Montana cases of HIV infection have been diagnosed each year since 2000.

Getting tested is the first step. When a person’s HIV status is known, steps can be taken to obtain medical care and get treatment if positive. Studies show that early treatment leads to a longer, healthier life. HIV medication also protects the health of partners as it greatly reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to others.

Persons testing negative also benefit, as steps can be taken to stay negative, such as reducing the number of partners, using condoms consistently and asking a health care provider about taking prophylactic medication for those who are at substantial risk.

For HIV prevention information and to find a nearby Montana testing go to the GetCheckedMT.org , or contact your local health department. Other resources are available at 1-800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to “KNOW IT” (566948) to find an HIV/STD test site near you.

Testing is also available through personal physicians. Health insurance usually covers the test, and some sites offer free testing. FDA-approved home testing kits are available for purchase at some pharmacies.