PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) encourages all Rhode Islanders to know the facts about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and get tested as part of their routine medical care. Thursday, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day, on which all individuals ages 13 to 64 are encouraged to get tested for HIV to know their status.
An estimated 1 in 5 people infected with HIV in the U.S. right now does not yet know that he or she has the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"I encourage all teens and adults to speak with their doctor about getting tested for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases during their regular check-ups," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Knowing your status is vital to protect you and those closest to you. With early treatment and continued care, people infected with HIV can live long, healthy lives, and avoid infecting their partners."
The CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S., with about 20 percent of those people unaware that they are infected and at risk of spreading HIV to others. Approximately 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year.
"The goal of the Rhode Island Department of Health is to eliminate new HIV infections in Rhode Island by 2017," said Dr. Fine, adding that there were 78 new HIV cases reported in Rhode Island in 2012, down from 97 in 2011. "This goal is an important part of our efforts to make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation."
Rhode Islanders who do not have a primary care doctor, who lack insurance, or who are concerned about out-of-pocket costs for testing may take advantage of free or low-cost HIV testing offered through HEALTH's year-round partnerships with organizations like AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and MAP Behavioral Health Services. Such community-based agencies also offer testing for Hepatitis C and vaccinations to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Some agencies will offer extended testing hours or other special events during the week of June 23-30 to accommodate additional patients seeking HIV testing or those with questions. More information about testing sites can be found on the HEALTH website.