June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD). Founded in 1995 by the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), this day serves to promote HIV testing across the U.S. by urging Americans to “Take the Test, Take Control.” This year, National HIV Testing Day falls between two major dates:
Last summer, the White House released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). The plan is the nation's first-ever comprehensive, coordinated HIV/AIDS strategy with clear and measurable targets to be achieved within the next four years.
Since the first infections of HIV/AIDS were reported 30 years ago, HIV has grown into a pandemic with far-reaching consequences for both individual health outcomes and national economies. In many countries most affected by HIV, prevalence among women is markedly higher than among men.
At the end of 2010, the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimated that there were more than 34 million people living with HIV around the globe. An additional 3,000 women and 1,000 children are newly infected with HIV every day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide; in the highest prevalence countries HIV is the leading cause of maternal deaths. An estimated 400,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2009, and millions more have been orphaned by AIDS.
In response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, MCHIP is working to build the capacity of health workers and health systems to provide high-quality care and respond to emerging priorities in HIV prevention, care and treatment. Specific intervention areas include: prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT); cervical cancer prevention for women living with HIV; preservice education for nurses and nurse-midwives; and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention.
There has been a great deal of progress in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in many of the countries where MCHIP works, and UNAIDS’ 2010 Report on the Global Epidemic indicated that the virtual elimination of PMTCT is possible. Over the past decade, the number of children who contracted HIV during the perinatal and breastfeeding period each year decreased from 500,000 in 2001 to 370,000 in 2009.
Ultimately, MCHIP aims to reduce HIV incidence among women, children and men, and to ensure that people with living with HIV are promptly diagnosed and linked to high quality care and treatment services.
For additional information about National HIV Testing Day, visit www.napwa.org, and remember:
· If you are living with HIV, enrolling in care now means that you can start ART as soon as you are clinically eligible, helping to keep your immune system strong. Knowing your status is a key first step to taking control of your health.
· Recent studies show that ART has an important prevention benefit. By lowering the viral load, effective treatment makes it much less likely that a person living with HIV will pass the virus on to his or her partner. HIV testing is thus an important link to HIV prevention, care and treatment services.
MCHIP HIV/AIDS Technical Team Leader