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National HIV Testing Day

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. The goal of National HIV Testing Day is to identify HIV-positive people who are unaware they are infected so they may access treatment and live longer, healthier lives. Getting tested also prevents new HIV infections by increasing education, awareness, and access to voluntary counseling and testing. One of the most important challenges is reaching an estimated 25 percent of HIV-infected persons who don't even know they have it.

Most Americans still tend to think of HIV/AIDS as conditions which predominantly affect men, but the estimated number of HIV cases among women is on the rise.  Of even greater concern is that women progress more quickly from HIV infection to AIDS than men.  While medical treatments for AIDS are increasingly available, early detection is the key to raising the effectiveness of treatment regimens. 

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report issued in June 2005, the estimated number of AIDS cases in the US increased 15% among females and only 1% among males, from 1999 to 2003.  Additionally, women develop AIDS at a lower viral level than men, and consequently, progress more quickly from HIV to AIDS. The "efficiency" of male-to-female infection of HIV is more than two times higher than that of female-to-male infection. Early diagnosis is therefore critical to prolonged survival.

"Studies have shown that a woman's risk of progressing from HIV to AIDS is almost twice as high as compared to men with the same viral load," said Dr. Sherry Marts, Vice President of Scientific Affairs with the Society for Women's Health Research. "Testing and early diagnosis is crucial to ensure that women with HIV benefit from the advances in treatment that have dramatically decreased the numbers of men dying from AIDS in the U.S."

For women, it is fairly common to have a sexually transmitted disease and not know it, especially in the early stages. This can have serious consequences that are specific to women including infertility or passing the disease to the baby during birth or pregnancy.

"If you are sexually active, assume that you are at risk and get tested," said Sherry Marts, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the Society for Women's Health Research. "AIDS is increasing in the heterosexual population, especially in women."

 For more information on HIV testing, click here.
For more information on sex differences and HIV, click here

Created: 6/27/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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