AIDS: Update Your Status

Jun 19, 2012, 4:30 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The timing of the current Washington, DC, revival of The Normal Heart, a period piece about the very earliest days of the AIDS epidemic in America, is no accident. The play (reviewed in the Washington Post) is set in New York City in the early 80s, at the very start of the epidemic—when the disease had no name, no effective treatment and no prevention strategy. The revival will still be playing in the nation’s capital during the International AIDS Conference, the first time the conference has been held in the United States since 1990. Conference organizers boycotted the U.S. as a meeting site because of travel restrictions for HIV-positive travelers, which were lifted in 2010.

But theatre goers who think they’re seeing a historical account of a bygone disease are dangerously mistaken. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS and one in five is unaware of their infection. HIV experts say late detection of the infection can mean that drugs may be insufficiently effective.

To help increase the numbers of Americans who get tested for HIV/AIDS, this week, Greater Than AIDS, a national public information advocacy group, released outdoor media messages, including billboards and bus and rail posters, aimed at connecting people with free and low-cost testing in their communities by promoting hotlines and web-based resources provided by CDC, state and local health departments and AIDS service organizations.

The new campaign includes the first Spanish language messages in the lead up to National HIV Testing Day on June 27. “This campaign is about helping to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV testing and connect people with services in their communities,” says Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director of Health Communication and Media Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a co-founding partner of Greater Than AIDS.

Learn more about HIV testing and prevention:

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.