National HIV Testing Day, held annually on June 27, encourages people to get tested for HIV, know their status and get linked to care and treatment.
“Regular HIV testing is important because it can keep individuals and their partners healthy,” said Shantrel Canidate, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and associate director for outreach and community partnerships at UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. “Taking an HIV test is the only way an individual will know if they have the virus. Without testing, individuals may unknowingly spread the virus. Once a person tests positive, it is imperative that they begin receiving antiretroviral treatment which is essential to reducing the amount of HIV in their system as well as reducing new HIV infections.”
There are multiple HIV tests available, said Robert Cook, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of epidemiology and director of the Southern HIV and Alcohol Research Consortium, or SHARC.
“Some tests look for HIV antibodies, which usually are present four-six weeks after someone becomes infected,” Cook said. “Others look for an ‘antigen,’ which is part of the virus itself, and these can be detected a few days after someone becomes infected. And some tests can use PCR or other genetic matching processes to identify the RNA from the HIV virus, and that can detect an infection almost immediately.”
Florida residents can visit Know Your HIV Status to request a free HIV test kit by mail.