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Why You Must Get an HIV Test


The President and First Lady getting the HIV test.

The President and First Lady getting the HIV test.

In 2006, then Senator Obama and his wife Michelle were famously tested for HIV/AIDS. (They’re negative.) And today on National HIV Testing Day the president is urging all Americans to know their status.

It’s extremely critical for people of color, especially those who live in areas like Harlem where HIV rates remain stubbornly high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 44 percent of all new HIV infections are in the African-American community, although blacks make up only 14 percent of the U.S. population. The infection rate among African Americans is eight times higher than the rate for whites.

What does this mean for you?

Where you live affects your risk of contracting the virus. Though any unprotected sexual encounter carries the risk of contracting HIV, some areas may be riskier than others. HIV finds the ideal incubator when a high infection rate intersects with low condom usage and testing. That combination makes any unprotected sexually encounter particularly “risky.”

It’s a simple math equation: People tend to have social and sexual relationships with people who live near them. So if you live in an area where many people have HIV, you’re more likely to become infected during unprotected sex than if you live in an area where hardly anyone has it. In other words, it’s harder to get HIV in North Dakota than it is in Harlem – or South Africa.

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What’s the solution?

Get HIV tested and make sure your partners are tested.  One in five Americans living with HIV doesn’t know they have the virus. Find a testing facility near you at the CDC’s National HIV and STD Testing Resources page.

Break the silence and stigma surrounding HIV. Talk about sex, sexuality, HIV and HIV prevention with your friends, family, partners and especially your children. To hear the stories of African-American people and families living with HIV and hear Alicia Keys talk about her own HIV/AIDS advocacy, go to the Greater than AIDS website.

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Here’s what the President said today about the importance of HIV testing:

“On a trip to Africa in 2006, Michelle and I were tested for HIV – because there should be no shame or stigma associated with knowing your status. And if we each do our part by getting tested – and encourage our friends and family to do the same – then we will move closer to an AIDS-free generation.”

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