Test of a lifetime: Too many Americans don’t know they have HIV

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In the last three decades, great progress has been made in the United States on the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/​AIDS. Even so, the federal Centers for Disease Control says that 1.1 million Americans are living today with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that destroys the body’s ability to fight disease.

If HIV patients get effective medical care, chances are they will stay ahead of the virus and prevent it from developing into AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, the final, sometimes fatal, stage of HIV infection.

What is also tragic is that about 181,000 of those with HIV, nearly 16 percent, don’t know they have it. In this case, what you don’t know can kill you.

That’s why the Pittsburgh HIV Commission, which has set as its mission raising awareness locally about HIV and AIDS, and other organizations have joined a national campaign to remind people that HIV testing is essential. 

Not just for men who have sex with men. And not just for injection drug users.

Heterosexual sex, for instance, accounts for a growing share — 25 percent in 2010 — of new HIV transmissions. Women represent 20 percent of new infections. 

Given HIV’s reach, the CDC recommends that all people between ages 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once during routine health care. 

Those who engage in unsafe sex or share injection drug equipment should be tested at least once a year.

All it takes is a blood test. All that can be saved is a life.

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