September 27th is slightly different than other awareness days, like World AIDS Day on December 1st or National HIV Awareness Month in July, because it is specifically geared towards gay men.
According to a study done by AIDS.gov, "Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly young black/African American MSM, are most seriously affected by HIV".
While it is important for everyone to understand the dangers of HIV and the prevention methods, statistics show us that the MSM group are affected the most by HIV in the United States.
It therefore becomes that much more important that HIV AIDS awareness efforts reach this group, and they understand the various, non-intrusive ways HIV is prevented.
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Regardless of how we identify, we call all do our part on HIV/AIDS awareness days, like this one, to accomplish the goal that has been set to vanquish HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and all over the world. We've included a few ways to participate below.
Get tested for HIV/AIDS
Awareness days are a great reminders to get tested. The frequency with which people should be tested depends largely on their sexual behaviors and whether they are part of a group that is particularly high risk.
You should get tested...
- Once a year: If you’re a man who has sex with men and have been sexually active in the last year, you should get tested. Other reasons you might need to get tested include sharing needles or other drug injection paraphernalia, or if you had another STI/STD in the past year.
- Every 3-6 months: If you’re having sex with multiple partners, or are engaging in other risk behaviors, you should get tested every 3-6 months. This is important because 1 in 8 people who have HIV are unaware they are infected. This means that they could be unknowingly passing on the infection, and their sexual partners could be unknowingly become infected. If you think you are high risk, then put yourself and any future sexual partners at ease and get tested every 3 months.
Don't let your financial situation put yourself and others at risk. Apicha CHC offers affordable, sliding scale STD/HIV testing at their clinic in Manhattan. Not in NYC? Use this locator to find a testing center near you.
How is HIV Prevented?
With the evolution of science and medical technology, there have been numerous prevention methods that have been created. If you think you are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, or if you just want to put your mind at ease, consider one of these prevention options
- If you are HIV negative: If you are HIV negative, talk to your medical provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP greatly decreases your likelihood of contracting HIV. In many studies, individuals who consistently took PrEP were 92% less likely to contract HIV. PrEP also has few side effects, with the most severe recorded side effects being upset stomach or loss of appetite. Learn more about PrEP and how to get it here.
- If you are HIV positive: If you are HIV positive, the best way to prevent passing on the infection is to start HIV treatment. Not only will HIV treatments like antiretroviral therapy (ART) decrease your risk of passing on HIV, it will help you lead a normal life. You should also always share your status with your partners. While this may seem like an awkward, embarrassing conversation to have, hopefully your partner will appreciate your honesty. Find some tips on how to best share your status here and find some additional resources about CDC's Act Against AIDS campaign here.
- If you are sexually active: Whether you are HIV positive or negative, if you are sexually active you should ALWAYS use protection. Not only will protection like latex condoms decrease your risk of infection or your risk of passing on infection, it will also protect you against other kinds of STIs/STDs.
Share Your HIV AIDS Awareness Story
One of the best ways to increase awareness is to share stories of HIV success. Whether these stories are about your personal triumph over HIV, or your partner's, or friend's, showing the world that there is life after a positive HIV test result is key to relieving some of the stigmas that have often surrounded HIV.
The Let's Stop HIV Together initiative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked to do just this by asking all those who have had experience with HIV/AIDS in their past to share their stories. Watch a few of the stories they've collected below.
If you want to share your own story, you can do so here. Also, if you want to share your story on social media in honor of National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, use the hashtag NGMHAAD. Feel free to share your stories of empowerment on the Apicha Facebook page as well!
When we all work together, we make HIV/AIDS awareness days like the National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day really count in leaps and bounds towards eradicating HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and all over the world.
If it is time for you to get tested again, or if you are HIV positive and looking for caring, quality treatment, request an appointment with Apicha Community Health Center.
This article was last updated January 8, 2018.