Like many people, the first time I took an HIV test, I was scared…
Many images start swirling through your head while you swab a stick around your mouth. In those 20 minutes it takes to get the results, you suddenly start to remember and reconstruct every possible incident that could possibly lead to an HIV positive diagnosis. And then the time is up…and you are called into a room and counseled on your results. Nervousness still ensues, even when you know you are not at high risk for contracting HIV.
Since that first time, I’ve taken the rapid oral HIV tests several times as well as the blood test. For me, it’s a good reminder to get this done along with other tests around the time of my birthday.
However, regional and national HIV testing initiatives vital in getting more people tested. All this week, countries around the Caribbean will be hosting various HIV testing events, leading up to the Regional HIV Testing Day on June 29th (sponsored by Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS, Scotiabank and the Pan Caribbean Partnership on HIV/AIDS (PANCAP)). Two days before that, on June 27th, the United States hosts their own National HIV Testing Day. These initiatives aim to mobilize the general population and heighten public awareness of the importance of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) as part of an effective HIV prevention strategy.
Here in the United States, we learn that Blacks are more likely than other groups to obtain a later HIV diagnoses. Additionally, Blacks, on average, are diagnosed with AIDS within one year of their HIV diagnosis. This suggests that people are not getting tested early enough to receive care. And, not knowing your status means that you are unknowingly passing on the virus to others. Studies have also shown that those who know their status are less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.
There is growing scientific data on HIV testing behaviors among various populations across the region such as HIV testing practices in Jamaica (Norman, 2006), Sexual behavior and attitude towards HIV testing among non-HIV testers in a developing nation: A public health concern (Bourne & Charles, 2010) and Prevalence and correlates of HIV testing among Caribbean youth (Andrews, 2011). But, as is often noted, effective and efficacious messages interventions need to be developed targeting youth, young adult and other underserved populations.
If you’re interested in knowing more about HIV testing, UNAIDS Caribbean published “Fast Facts About HIV Testing and Counselling“.
Across the Caribbean region, many places will be offering free HIV tests this week. You do not have to wait until the 29th to get tested. For a list of dates and location, visit http://www.digiscapes.net/cbmprtd2012.htm
Since this site aims to bring together initiatives not just important to those in the Caribbean but to Caribbean peoples outside the region, I’m interested in knowing if thier are similar initiatives in Cana or the UK that target either the national or Black/Caribbean populations. Let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing me at diane at caribbeanhealth dot org.