Picture yourself reading newspaper articles and reports in the early 1980s about the discovery of AIDS - a term used for the first time to describe sudden cases of sarcoma or pneumonia infection in healthy people. AIDS was a tragedy of unknown proportions unfolding in all parts of the world, baffling the medical community and its innocent victims. The sheer helplessness was quite poignantly articulated in a quote in the New York Times: “In many parts of the world there is anxiety, bafflement, a sense that something has to be done – although no one knows what.”
The virus spared no one and embraced the rich, the poor, the celebrities and the commoners. Men and women of all classes, color, caste and creed fell by its way side. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, an estimated 60 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes since beginning of the epidemic.
Back in 1984, then U.S. Health and Human Secretary Margaret Heckler made a dramatic announcement about isolation of the virus that caused AIDS, and assured the availability of a commercially available test to detect the virus with 100 percent certainty. She also forecast the availability of a vaccine ready for testing in about two years, stating “yet another terrible disease is about to yield to patience, persistence and outright genius.”
While Secretary Heckler’s prediction about a vaccine was unfortunately overly optimistic, HIV testing is widely available and highly accurate. But while we have come far in our fight against HIV, more than half of American adults have never been tested for HIV. One in 5 people living with HIV in the U.S. don't know they have it. If you have never been tested, an excellent opportunity is right around the corner.
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, an event observed nationally since 1995 to promote HIV testing and early diagnosis of HIV across the United States. The initiative bears testimony to the pioneering efforts of NAPWA – National Association of People With AIDS – a nonprofit organization that champions the lives and dignity of all people living with HIV/AIDS.
Campaigns like the National HIV Testing Day with its message Take the Test, Take Control go a long way in raising awareness and promoting testing so that people get to know their HIV status. NAPWA encourages anyone who is old enough to be sexually active or does recreational drugs to be tested.
So folks, June 27 is the day to step out of our comfort zones and head for a healthcare clinic in our near vicinity. You can find a health care clinic in your area by clicking here. Talk to your healthcare provider about the available testing options. There could be no better way to express our solidarity and support in this fight to end the epidemic.