June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. It is a day to encourage people to get tested, know their status and get linked to care and treatment. Before we can discuss HIV testing, it is important to know how the disease is spread. A person can contract HIV through the following ways:
1) Through sexual contact with a person who is HIV positive. You can lower your risk of contracting the virus by knowing your partner's status, using a condom and taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
2) Sharing contaminated needles.
3) From mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding. This method is not as common, as current medicines and strategies have helped lower this transmission risk to less than 1% in the United States.
4) Blood transfusions.
There are still many misconceptions regarding the spread of HIV. Here are ways HIV is NOT spread:
1) Air or water
2) Mosquitoes, ticks or other insects
3) Saliva, tears or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of an HIV positive person
4) Physical touching such as shaking hands, hugging, sharing toilets or kissing. HIV cannot be passed through healthy, unbroken skin.
5) Drinking fountains
6) You cannot “catch” AIDS. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV. You can avoid the progression of HIV to AIDS by receiving HIV treatment.
If you have any unclear feelings regarding your status, it is important to get tested. It is important to be aware of your health status in order to receive the treatment you need and prevent any harm to others. HIV is a serious disease, but with today’s medical advancements it is completely possible to live a normal life while being HIV positive.