CHICAGO – This weekend marked National HIV Testing Day, when people are encouraged to find out their HIV status and work to end the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.
Jim Pickett, senior director of gay men’s health and prevention advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said it’s important for people to know that tests can be done quickly, in half an hour or less. .
He pointed out that for those who test negative, there is the option of taking a prescription known as PReP, [pre-exposure prophylaxis], which is very effective in preventing HIV. And for people who test positive, there are effective PEPs [post-exposure prophylaxis] easy-to-take treatments.
Pickett added that if you are HIV positive and the treatment results in an undetectable viral load, you cannot pass HIV on to your sexual partners.
“If you find out your status and can get care and treatment, you will stay healthy,” Pickett explained. “You can live a normal lifespan, which we couldn’t tell when I tested positive in the 90s.”
Pickett noted that there were fewer HIV tests performed and fewer doctor visits for HIV treatment during the pandemic. He hopes that as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 and discover the option of home self-testing, those numbers will increase.
Pickett pointed out that many appointments can be made via telehealth and that technology is expected to play a big role in HIV treatment in the future.
“I would suggest that sexually active people consider getting tested every three months or so,” Pickett urged. “It’s just good practice, and not only would I get tested for HIV, but I would also get tested for other STIs.”