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US National HIV Testing Day boosts numbers testing
Roger Pebody, 2016-06-27 15:40:00
Today, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day in the United
States and a study just published in Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report shows that in previous years, this event has
resulted in a statistically significant increase in the number of people
diagnosed with HIV.
National HIV Testing Day has been observed since 1995 and in
recent years HIV testing weeks have also been organised in European and
Australasian countries. They encourage health organisations to run events
promoting and providing HIV tests.
However there has been some doubt as to whether the events
actually have a demonstrable effect on the number of people learning that they
are living with HIV. If testing events primarily engaged individuals at low
risk of HIV or individuals who would be likely to take a test at a regular
health facility on another occasion, they would not achieve this aim.
Researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) analysed data on HIV testing from 2011 to 2014. They compared data on testing
in June (the month in which National HIV Testing Day occurs) with data from
During other times of the year in these four years, the CDC paid for just over a
million HIV tests each month. During June, this figure rose by 11% and the
number of people being diagnosed with HIV rose by 15%.
A further analysis, looking at testing rates in the two
weeks before and after June 27 shows that in each year, the highest
number of positive diagnoses was made on National HIV Testing Day. New HIV
infections identified on that day, compared with those identified on the next
highest day in the period, were 25% higher in 2011, 40% in 2012, 20% in 2013, and 17% in 2014.
The numbers testing increased across all demographic groups.
There were particularly impressive increases among gay men and transgender
people, suggesting that testing events do reach people at elevated risk of
infection. (Nonetheless June is also the month of gay pride events, another
occasion when testing events are organised – these may contribute to the data too).
“NHTD [National HIV Testing Day] identifies a number of new
HIV infections in populations disproportionately affected by HIV and might
increase awareness of HIV status among HIV-infected persons,” the authors
conclude. “These findings suggest that community-level approaches to advocate
early detection and treatment of HIV infection might use mass testing events
such as those promoted for NHTD in areas where HIV is most prevalent.”