HIV Testing is Self-care: Testing is key to ending the HIV epidemic
Monday, June 27, 2022, is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), an opportunity to emphasize and encourage HIV testing. The theme is “HIV Testing is Self-care.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once per lifetime as part of routine health care. Those with certain risk factors may benefit from testing at least once a year, or once every 3-6 months, depending on risk. HIV testing is easy, fast, confidential, and is the first step in one’s care or prevention journey. People that test positive for HIV can be linked to lifesaving HIV treatment. People that test negative for HIV can receive empowering information about safer sex, substance use prevention/treatment, and health care. Individuals that test negative also can gain access to powerful tools like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or medicine to prevent HIV. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for individual and community actions to protect and promote physical and mental health has never been greater.
People with mental illness and/or substance use disorder are at increased risk of getting and transmitting HIV. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is committed to addressing this challenge. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance use and mental illness on America’s communities. SAMHSA’s substance use and mental health grant recipients and partner organizations can reach people at risk for or living with HIV to encourage testing. SAMHSA has long encouraged (PDF | 1 MB) substance use disorder and mental health treatment providers to integrate HIV testing into routine care. In fact, it is a requirement for some of SAMHSA’s grants. SAMHSA encourages grant recipients to follow CDC's HIV testing guidelines for clinical settings, complete CME training on HIV screening, and distribute HIV self-testing kits.
If you would like to access tailored information about your personal HIV risk and prevention strategies, you can use the HIV Risk Reduction Tool. If you would like to receive an HIV test in person, you can find a testing provider through the CDC’s Get Tested website. If you would prefer to administer your own test, HIV self-testing can be done wherever and whenever you choose. Finally, if you, or someone you know, is seeking help for substance use or mental illness, SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator can help you connect with treatment programs in your area.
SAMHSA would like to take this opportunity to thank our grant recipients and partner organizations for their perseverance and flexibility in ensuring that HIV testing is simple, accessible, affordable, and routine. SAMHSA also would like to encourage everyone at risk for HIV, especially those with mental health and substance use issues, to use NHTD to get tested in a way that works best for you – whether it’s self-testing in your own space or finding a testing site nearby. Together we can end the HIV epidemic and reduce the related toll of mental illness and substance use, one HIV test at a time.