(BPT) - The COVID-19 pandemic introduced unprecedented challenges and altered ways of living across the globe. Now, more than two years later, the effects are still felt widely. Many non-emergent clinical services were limited or suspended during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, which may have adversely impacted epidemics of public health importance, such as HIV, and access to testing, which is a cornerstone of prevention efforts. While adjusting to a new normal, it’s time to reprioritize making routine HIV screening a normal and important part of self-care.In 2019, an estimated one in eight people living with HIV in the US were unaware of their status, and in 2016 nearly 80 percent of new HIV infections were transmitted by people who didn’t know they had HIV or were not in care. Further, HIV diagnoses have greatly declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent analysis, the number of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded HIV tests conducted by the country’s health departments plunged by nearly half from 2019 to 2020. Another report indicates that HIV diagnoses dropped by 17% from 2019 to 2020, after declining by no more than 3% annually since 2016, likely due to disruptions to HIV-related services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.4To help normalize HIV testing, Gilead launched Press Play, a resource to encourage routine testing as a regular part of self-care and help deter negative emotions or stigma associated with HIV screenings. HIV testing is for everyone – the CDC recommends people between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care, and some people may benefit from getting tested more often. Press Play provides information about what you can expect during an HIV test, next steps to take after a test, and other tools – including options for finding an HIV testing site or ordering a free at-home test – to help make test taking easier.“With Press Play, our goal is to normalize routine HIV screening as an important part of self-care by providing resources to help you get tested and information on your options once you have your test results – no matter the outcome,” said David Malebranche, MD, MPH, Senior Director of Global HIV Medical Affairs at Gilead. “Once you know your HIV status, you’re on your way to moving forward. You can connect with your HCP to understand options to help prevent or treat HIV.”While it’s natural to feel nervous about getting tested for HIV, no matter the test result, there is power in knowing your HIV status. By knowing your status, you are better equipped to discuss prevention or treatment options with a health care provider. Although there is currently no cure for HIV, there are several options available to help prevent or treat HIV.The only way to know your HIV status is through testing. It’s time to reintroduce testing into self-care routines and work together to help put an end to the HIV epidemic. To learn more about HIV testing, find HIV testing sites, or order a free at-home test, visit Press Play’s website at hivtestnow.com. Moitra E, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV testing rates across four geographically diverse urban centres in the United States: An observational study. Lancet Reg Health Am. 2022;7:100159. doi:10.1016/j.lana.2021.100159 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC fact sheet: HIV in the United States and dependent areas. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/statistics/overview/cdc-hiv-us-ataglance.pdf CDC. Gaps in HIV testing and treatment hinder efforts to stop new infections. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0315-gaps-hinder-hiv-testing.html CDC. HIV Surveillance Report, 2020; vol. 33. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/hiv-surveillance/vol-33/index.html Patel D, et al. HIV testing services outcomes in CDC-funded health departments during COVID-19. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2022. doi:10.1097/QAI.0000000000003049 “Should I get tested for HIV?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV: Getting tested. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/hiv-testing/getting-tested.html
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