Each year since 1995, the United States has observed June 27 as National HIV Testing Day. Now a study has shown that this event is associated with a substantial jump in numbers - both the number of people getting tested and the number of people being detected with HIV.
Following the example of the United States, countries in Europe and Australasia have followed suit and have begun organizing testing weeks with promotional events to encourage individuals to get tested for HIV.
Nevertheless, there have been doubts that these events have any measurable effect on increasing awareness about HIV. It has been questioned whether there is any demonstrable increase in the number of people who learn they are living with HIV. It has also been pointed out that if such events test low-risk individuals or people who would, in any case, seek testing at regular healthcare facilities, the entire purpose of National HIV Testing Day is lost.
A study recently published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has put some of these misgivings to rest. Data from research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between the years 2011 and 2014 has demonstrated a statistically significant jump in both testing and diagnosis in the month of June when the event is held.
Researchers have found that at other times of the year, the CDC pays for a little over 1 million HIV tests every month. However, in the month of June in these four years, this figure increased by 11%. The number of people diagnosed with HIV also increased by 15% in June each year between 2011 and 2014.
More detailed analysis of the data has revealed that the maximum number of detections is made on June 27, National HIV Testing Day, compared to a couple of weeks before and after the event. In 2011, 25% more new HIV infections were identified on June 27 compared to the next highest day in this period. This figure rose to 40% in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, 20% and 17% more HIV infections were identified on June 27, respectively. While an increase in numbers is noted across the board, the figures are most impressive among transgender people and gay men, the demographic groups that are considered high risk for HIV.
The study authors conclude that National HIV Testing Day has a significant impact on increasing awareness in high-risk individuals and in early diagnosis of the disease in HIV-infected people. Such community-level approaches with mass testing events are particularly important in areas where HIV is known to be prevalent, they state.