National HIV Testing Day

Today is National HIV Testing Day. There are numerous places that are offering the test for Human Immunodeficiency Virus - which usually involve a blood draw, but can be done on saliva or urine - in Baltimore. The Howard County Health Department also offers times for free and anonymous HIV/AIDS screening, as well as other STDs. (hocoblogs@@@)

Chalk Drawing for STD Awareness Month at UMB in April, 2011.

Howard County Health Department has two locations:

7180 Columbia Gateway Dr
Columbia, Maryland 21044


9525 Durness Ln
Laurel, Maryland 20723

Testing is critical for someone to know his or her status, particularly as many STDs can be contracted and spread even in the absence of symptoms, and even when barrier protection is used. Moreover, some STDs can take several months to show up as positive tests, so repeat testing may be necessary. 

There's no sense in pretending that there isn't stigma associated with STDs - to the point that it can discourage people from regular testing and care. 

Think about it next time you're in a conversation and someone throws in a reference to herpes (caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 or 2) as a sign of promiscuity. The CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 6 Americans has HSV-2, the form of virus most often associated with genital herpes. In contrast, the oral form of herpes (typically HSV-1), is estimated to be carried by more than 50% of the population. Oral HSV can be transmitted simply by sharing a glass with someone actively shedding the virus.*

Look again at those numbers. 1 in 6 people. 50%. It doesn't take a genius to realize that unless one is in a 100% monogamous relationship with someone who knows their STD status, it's very possible to contract an STD without "sleeping around." Yet that's often the assumption when people talk about sexually transmitted infections.

Knowing status is critical in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, not just those that can be resolved with treatment. When partners are aware of each other's status, they can take measures to prevent transmission if one partner is affected. HSV can be managed with antiviral medication, while early intervention can reduce the risk of transmission of HIV

Below are some pictures I took back in April - which, incidentally, is STD awareness month - of chalk drawings done on the UMB campus to raise awareness for the need for STD testing. Hopefully things like this will help encourage people to get tested regularly as part of their health routine, or at least help further the conversation.

* Edit: HSV1 and HSV2 can cause either oral or genital herpes, depending on exposure.

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