One of the hardest things about fighting AIDS is that many many people who have HIV, the AIDS virus, don't even know it!
When this happens, the virus can be passed unknowingly and can spread to many people.
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested and in 1995, the National Association for People With AIDS founded, National HIV Testing Day to encourage people to get tested for HIV and to make it easier to do so.
As the organization explains:
"We share a vision that learning one’s status not only empowers the community, but represents a major victory over the HIV epidemic. National HIV Testing Day established...to increase testing around the nation so that more Americans know their status."
Though learning that you are HIV positive can be terrifying and life altering. It can also be life saving, both for you since you can get appropriate medical care, and for others who you can now keep safe.
These days there are more ways to test than ever!
According to About's Guide to STDs there are there are four common ways to test for HIV. These are:
Standard Blood Tests. The results of a blood test can take between one to two weeks. If a test comes back it is always retested since a "false positive" is a concern with this sort of test. It is not until a positive result has been retested, that a person will be told they have HIV.
Rapid Testing: If you do a rapid test you can get results immediately! (Well, in as little as twenty minutes, which is pretty quick.) As with a blood test, if a rapid test comes back positive, it too will be retested.
Oral Testing: There are two FDA approved tests that use oral fluids instead of blood. During these tests, the person only has to have their mouth swabbed and no blood is drawn. These are becoming more popular and often give people rapid results.
Home Testing: Right now, there is one FDA approved home HIV test. This is called the Home Access Kit. You can get it online and it is also carried by many drug stores in the United States. This test requires a person to take his or her own blood sample and then send it to a national laboratory. You then call the lab to obtain the results. Counseling is available both before taking the test and before getting a result.
Unless you do a home test, you will need to find a testing site. One option is to visit a clinic. City and state Departments of Health often offer free or low cost HIV testing. You can look in the phone book, or online, for "teen clinics," "health clinics," or "HIV testing sites." Another option is to call the Centers for Disease Control HIV Testing Hotline at: 800-342-2437 for testing locations.p>Some cities even have GLBT friendly health centers. Some are free standing and some are found within GLBT Community Centers. Here are a few:
- New York City:GMHC and Callen Lourde Community Health Center
- Seattle: Gay City
- San Francisco:Dimension Queer Youth Clinic
- Los Angeles:Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center
- Ft. Lauderdale: Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida
Your closest GLBT community center will also be able to put you in touch with GLBT-friendly local resources!
You can also go to your family doctor. First you will need to call up and make an appointment. Explain why you are coming in and ask about their confidentiality policy regarding teenagers. It is against the law share someone's HIV test results, even with a minor's parents, but you should still confirm that your doctor follows the law.
Getting tested for HIV can be a big deal, so why not use the support of an event like National HIV Testing Day to help you make the decision to do so!