Today is National HIV Testing Day. First and foremost on my mind is to ask you to get to a testing site, wherever you may be, and get tested. Most urban and suburban communities offer free, rapid HIV testing to the general public. If you’re in Orange County, please visit the ASF offices and take advantage of our free testing program. The information on hours and location can be found here on our website. We look forward to seeing you and to helping you take the test and take control.
In conjunction with National HIV Testing Day, ASF is launching a 6-month HIV testing campaign of its own, “Take the Initiative. Take the Test.”
We have always been mindful of the need to ensure that everyone knows their own HIV status. We advocate on behalf of all members of the county that doctors offer HIV testing along with regular blood screenings as required by California state law. Until that practice is regularly enforced, ASF has to continue its testing efforts.
The most recent statistics released by the Orange County Healthcare Agency reflect startling numbers in the county. In 2011, new HIV infections were reported at a rate of more than 1.13 per day. As of the end of last year, nearly 6,700 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Orange County. Communities of color are affected at a rate of nearly 2 to 1 over white communities. And the most frightening statistic is that over 41% of new infections are in the 18-29 age group.
Also of concern to us at ASF is that we are seeing more diagnoses of AIDS concurrent with the HIV diagnosis. That means that when they test positive for HIV, the virus has been in their system long enough to have progressed to “full blown” AIDS. Since HIV can lie dormant in a host for many years, these people who are diagnosed concurrently have potentially been spreading the virus for that entire time.
This is why it is of the utmost importance that ASF increase its HIV testing reach. Along with the campaign to reach out to and test at-risk populations like college students and the Hispanic community, “Take the Initiative. Take the Test.,” also includes a fund raising campaign to pay for those tests.
Although ASF receives a small amount of funding from the county to provide HIV testing, a $65,000 budget shortfall remains to complete the 2,400 tests we hope to provide this year. We are asking the general public to not only take the initiative to get tested but also to help pay for that test and/or the test of someone less fortunate. And thankfully, we received an unexpected gift last year from the estate of Bea Arthur that will help seed the campaign. Thanks to that gift, we were able to get this far into the year. Now we need the help of the general public to raise the additional $40,000.
If you’d like to donate to the “Take the Initiative. Take the Test.,” campaign, please click here. Any amount will help us reach our goal. And remember to get tested. If you don’t do it today, please do it soon!