National HIV Testing Day
By Jade Arroyo
National Day of HIV testing is an opportunity to promote HIV testing and its benefits. It is held on the last Friday of November.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is spread through blood, semen, and breast milk. Although there is no actual cure for the infection, HIV can be controlled for many years with combination of retrovirus treatment and maintaining a decent living standard. United Nations data shows that in 2013, 35 million people were living with HIV, 2.1 million people were infected with the virus, and about 1.5 million people died of AIDS.
Numbers vary with each country, but in Mexico the intense work toward awareness is reflected in a 39 percent reduction in cases, in five years.
A common pattern is that cases rise in discriminated groups who are also victims of violence and who have less access to prevention and treatment programs: sex workers, transgender women, and women who are victims of violence.
There are few prevention policies aimed toward these groups.
Antiretroviral treatment has transformed HIV infection and AIDS, a disease that was considered fatal, to a chronic disease that allows people in treatment to have a productive life.
The national day of testing is not the only day in which people can be tested, but it is the day of increased discussion and awareness. Nationally, a strong social media campaign was articulated, calling for a well-informed citizenship and to locate the nearest test center.
In San Miguel, there were free tests by the non-profit Colectivo 41 in the Plaza Cívica, in the ONG Fair. Ana Karen Ocampo, Coordinator of Colectivo 41, an association for the rights of the LGBT community and Sexual and Reproductive Rights, said that, “Living with HIV today does not makes a difference between one to the other; misinformation and stigma does.”
Key data on HIV testing:
• The test is safe, free, voluntary, and confidential.
• The test must be performed on all sexually active people at least once a year.
• An early diagnosis improves the quality of life.
If the result indicates that you have HIV, treatment and care is no cost to you throughout Mexico.
• If every person takes the test, it helps reduce stigma and discrimination related to HIV.
• All pregnant women should do the test for HIV and syphilis in order to ensure virus-free children.
• All people, even those who are not perceived at risk, can acquire it.
• One act of sexual intercourse without a condom is enough to get HIV.
• The condom is still one of the best and most inexpensive ways to prevent HIV.
• Antiretrovirals can reverse the effects of AIDS.
* Source CENSIDA Secretary of Public Health