In this photo taken June 27, 2012, Robin Reese, 41, of Washington, uses an oral test for HIV, in front of a poster detailing facts about HIV/AIDS, inside the HIV Testing Room at the Penn Branch of the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, in southeast Washington. An AIDS-free generation: It seems an audacious goal, considering how the HIV epidemic still is raging around the world. Yet more than 20,000 international HIV researchers and activists will gather in the nation’s capital later this month with a sense of optimism not seen in many years _ hope that it finally may be possible to stem the spread of the AIDS virus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness about HIV, and encourages individuals to know their status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just over 1 million persons live with HIV and one out of five do not know they carry the virus.

In the United States, African-Americans are the racial and ethnic group most affected by HIV. The CDC estimates that new infection rates in Blacks are nearly eight times higher than those in Whites. Black men ages 25-34 are the most affected age group, with rates of infection in Black women decreasing in most recent data. However, Black women are still disproportionately affected by the virus.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday that this year’s theme for NHTD is “Take The Test. Take Control.” Secretary Sebelius’ office notes that, while new infections for Black women dropped by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, she expressed cautious optimism about the numbers.

From Kathleen Sebelius:

HIV testing is so important because it gives you the information you need to make good decisions about your health. If you test negative, you can take steps to stay that way (which may include periodic testing if you engage in high-risk behaviors). If you have HIV, there are medications that will help you stay healthy and live longer. These medications—known as antiretroviral therapy (ART)—also make it significantly less likely that you might pass the virus to someone else.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already expanded access to free HIV screening for many people. For those living with HIV/AIDS, the health care law will help to ensure they get the care and treatment they need. That is good news, and the ACA has more in store. On January 1, 2014, many of the ACA’s most important provisions will begin increasing access to healthcare for millions of Americans, including those living with HIV/AIDS. To prepare, as of October 1, 2013, people can begin enrolling in ACA-mandated Health Insurance Marketplaces to find affordable health insurance.

If you would like to find a Testing Day event or center, click here.

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