Friday, November 30, 2007

An Unhappy Anniversary

December 1st marks the 20th annual observance of World AIDS Day. That's 20 years of commemorating the dead and tending the sick. Twenty years of pain, loss, and sadness. Twenty-five million dead of AIDS so far---and an estimated 33 million living with HIV.

Father Jake did a wonderful post on World AIDS Day, for which I thank him. He asked me there for additional information, but when I tried to post it, I got the message that there were too many links...so I have moved my answer to him here.

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My office created and runs AIDS.gov and coordinates HHS' involvement in the HIV/AIDS Awareness Days. I've written or edited a good bit of the text for those sites. I'm very proud of what we do!

AIDS.gov is now the main gateway to information on Federal domestic HIV/AIDS resources. It will link visitors to a wide array of information on HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and research. You can also get information on Federal HIV/AIDS policies there. We'll be offering a new user interface in the next week or two, so be sure to visit and give us some feedback.

I also encourage you to watch our World AIDS Day webcast. It featured four of the top Federal officials who are working on HIV/AIDS, and even I learned a lot from it!

The CDC's site you link to (HIVtest.org ) is another great site. You can use it to get information online about nearby HIV testing centers.

Thanks to the generosity of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the CDC, you can use your cell phone to get that same information. Just text your preferred zip code (home, work, whatever) to KNOWIT (566948) and, within seconds, you will get the name and phone number of the nearest HIV testing site that is open to the public.

I also like the CDC's main HIV website, and their National Prevention Information Network site.

If you want a more global site, I really like AVERT.org, which is run out of the United Kingdom. They have great information on the epidemic across the globe.

Again, I appreciate so much your taking the time and space to note this day. We work on this observance for a good portion of the year---it is our best opportunity (along with National HIV Testing Day--June 27th) to remind people that HIV is still a deadly threat to global health.

There is no cure, and no vaccine, on the horizon. As Dr. Kevin Fenton, head of the CDC's HIV Bureau said during the webcast I mentioned, "We cannot treat our way out of this epidemic." Prevention is our best hope.

And prevention requires that people know their HIV status. I keep saying this over and over: Get tested. Even if you don't think you are at risk. Especially if you don't think you are at risk! Because stigma is still our biggest challenge when it comes to HIV prevention.

Until HIV testing becomes as routine as having a complete blood count or a urinalysis during your annual physical--and the CDC has recommended just this approach--we are going to face this problem. It would really help if primary care physicians routinely did HIV tests as part of their exams---and if patients would ask their physicians if they are following the new standards of care, as outlined by the nation's premier disease prevention office.

Take the test. Take control. And 10 years from now, I hope we'll be celebrating the rapid decline in new HIV cases instead of looking back on millions more dead and suffering.