June 27 Marks National HIV Testing Day

State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Get Tested; Early Diagnosis Key to Effective Treatment

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 26, 2009) - As New York State and the nation observes National HIV Testing Day on Saturday, June 27, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D, urges New Yorkers to get tested for HIV and know their HIV status to protect themselves, their partners and their families.

"National HIV Testing Day brings attention to HIV/AIDS and the reasons why the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone get tested for HIV," Commissioner Daines said. "Getting tested is the only sure way to know if you have the virus. The sooner you take the test, the sooner you will have the information you need to make important decisions about your health and learn how to protect yourself and others from infection."

In 2007, the last year complete data is available, some 4,585 New Yorkers received a first diagnosis of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Of these, 1,214 or 26.5 percent of the individuals were diagnosed with AIDS within one month of their HIV diagnosis, an indication that the HIV infection had existed and progressed for some time without treatment. An additional 8.4 percent were diagnosed with AIDS within one year of HIV diagnosis.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates that more than one million Americans are infected with HIV. Approximately one-fifth of HIV-infected persons are unaware that they have the infection. HIV infection that is undiagnosed delays treatment and contributes to transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

"No one should be afraid to get tested," said Humberto Cruz, Director of DOH's AIDS Institute. "HIV can be a manageable condition as long as it's diagnosed early, and treatment and counseling is sought quickly following a diagnosis. As part of National HIV Testing Day, we encourage New Yorkers, especially those between the ages of 13-64, to take advantage of the many free testing opportunities held throughout the state."

New Yorkers may obtain a simple HIV test at many locations, including public health clinics, medical providers and community-based organizations. Many sites offer rapid testing, which allows individuals to know their results in as little as 30 minutes. All tests are strictly confidential, and anonymous testing is available at some state and local health department sites.

While everyone should know their HIV status, individuals for whom an HIV test is particularly important include those who have:

  • Injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (e.g. needles, syringes, works) with others;
  • Exchanged sex for drugs or money;
  • Been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or syphilis;
  • Had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with multiple partners, anonymous partners or men who have sex with men; and/or
  • Had unprotected sex with anyone who has taken any of the risks above.

For more information about testing or for a free rapid HIV test, call the hotlines associated with DOH's anonymous HIV counseling and testing programs:

DOH's AIDS Institute also maintains the following HIV/AIDS hotlines for HIV testing and other questions:

  • English: 1-800-541-AIDS (2437)
  • Español: 1-800-233-SIDA (7432)
  • Deaf/TDD: 1-800-369-AIDS (2437)

Within New York City, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also maintains an HIV/AIDS Hotline for information on HIV counseling and testing sites at: 1-800-TALK-HIV or dial 311.

On the National HIV and STD Testing Resource website at http://www.hivtest.org, users can enter a zip code and find local testing sites. Mobile phone users can send a text message with their zip code to "KNOWIT" (566948) and, within seconds, receive a text message identifying a HIV testing site near them.