Do You Know Your HIV/AIDS Status?

Have you had your Flu shot this year? What was your last total cholesterol and LDL level ? Have you had your scheduled mammogram to screen for Breast cancer? Have you had a colonoscopy or Cologuard to screen for colon cancer? What was your last PSA (prostate specific antigen) in your Prostate cancer screen? What was your last fasting blood glucose level or HBA1c in a diabetes screen? Hopefully, everyone has had these tests and vaccinations appropriate for their age and gender. If not, you need to have a discussion with your health care providers.

Now, what is your HIV status? When was the last time you were tested? I suspect many of you who read my articles are being treated for HIV because I write about new treatments, and break-throughs in understanding this disease and research for a cure. But I write about other health issues that are not limited to people with HIV, so I’m sure I have some readers who likely think they don’t have it. But do you know your status for sure? Have you been tested? If not, why not? Has your medical provider ever offered you an HIV test? Are you afraid to get an HIV test or even ask for one?

Some people are afraid to get an HIV test because of the problem of stigma. One definition of stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person. We learned early in the epidemic that people with HIV might be gay, could be drug addicts or perhaps were promiscuous. All of these circumstances were viewed negatively in black communities and in broader society.

To make matters worse, the disease was fatal and could be transmitted by sex or through intravenous drug use. But since the start of the epidemic, out of the over 70 million people that have been infected with HIV globally (including 32 million people who have died), the overwhelming majority are in none of these categories: they were/are not gay, they did/do not use drugs and they had/have no more sex than anyone else. But even if they are in one of these groups, to judge them as to what type of a person they are and determine what type of quality of life they should have is totally out of bounds. The belief that people with HIV are