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On National HIV Testing Day, SAMHSA Encourages Everyone to Get Tested for HIV

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Date: June 27, 2023
Category: HIV/AIDS

Take the Test & Take the Next Step: No matter how you test, no matter your test results, take the next step.

Every year, on June 27, we observe National HIV Testing Day, which gives us the opportunity to emphasize and encourage the importance of HIV testing as an empowering first step in choosing options to stay healthy regardless of the test result. This year, the theme is “Take the Test & Take the Next Step.” This theme emphasizes that HIV testing is the first step in choosing options to stay healthy regardless of the test result. 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, and healthcare.

People with mental illness and/or substance use disorder are at increased risk of getting and transmitting HIV. Many of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) grant recipients are the first step into the healthcare system for people who are vulnerable to or living with HIV. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Some people should get tested more often, including people who have shared needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment such as cookers, and people who have exchanged sex for drugs or money.

SAMHSA has long encouraged substance use disorder and mental health treatment providers to integrate HIV testing into routine care:

In fact, it is a requirement for some of our grants. We encourage SAMHSA grant recipients to follow CDC’s HIV testing guidelines for clinical settings. SAMHSA is also a proud participant in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Initiative which emphasizes diagnosing individuals as soon as possible. This also ensures the availability of multiple HIV testing modalities to best meet the needs of populations with increased risk of transmission due to a wide range of social, economic, and demographic factors (such as stigma and discrimination).

Individuals that test negative also can gain access to powerful tools like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), or medicine to prevent HIV. 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, as well as other HIV service providers, through the CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign website. If you would prefer to administer your own test, HIV self-testing can be done where and when you choose. Finally, if you, or someone you know, is seeking help for substance use or mental illness, SAMHSA’s is an online guide that helps people navigate through common questions when they are at the start of their journey to address mental health, drug and alcohol issues. This includes how to ask for help, how to help others and how to search for a healthcare professional or support program that meets their needs. It features success stories that illustrate different types of behavioral health experiences; lists of how to talk to someone about getting help; steps on how to cope with mental health, drug or alcohol issues; signs of when to seek help and tools to ask for help; and information on how to pay for treatment with or without insurance.

SAMHSA would like to take this opportunity to thank our grant recipients and partner organizations for their contribution to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States. We encourage everyone at risk for HIV, especially those with mental health and substance use conditions, to use this day as an opportunity to get tested as the first step to lifelong health.