June 27, 2011
NIDA Director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow

Approximately 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV infection in the United States. Of these, about one-fifth are unaware they are infected.

NIDA would therefore like to join with other Federal partners, organizations, and grassroots groups everywhere to promote National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), June 27, 2011, an annual observance to encourage HIV testing.

It is critical that people know their HIV status so, if infected, they can take advantage of HIV treatment medications that can reduce the occurrence of AIDS-related illnesses and the risk of HIV transmission. Testing is particularly urgent for high-risk populations, such as those who abuse drugs. Drug abuse and addiction—inextricably linked with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the pandemic—contributes to the spread of HIV through sharing of injection paraphernalia and by altering judgment which can lead to risky sexual behaviors. Research shows that comprehensive HIV prevention—including community-wide access to drug abuse treatment and HIV testing, along with counseling about HIV risk behaviors—is the most effective way to reduce disease spread among drug users.

Indeed, early initiation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) therapy can play a key role in preventing disease spread and reducing HIV incidence in communities. To that end, NIDA is supporting research to discern the best strategy to reach and test high-risk individuals (e.g., criminal justice populations and substance abusers), and initiate and monitor HAART therapy for those who test positive. Known as Seek, Test, Treat, and Retain, this approach has been shown to reduce viral load and also HIV incidence at the population level.

The events surrounding National HIV Testing Day provide multiple opportunities to learn about HIV testing and to locate a center near you. See hiv.gov/events/awareness-days/hiv-testing-day for details. It's your life: take the test and take control.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

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