State Senator Rodney Ellis Urges Routine HIV Testing
(Houston, TX)—June 27 marked the 15th annual National HIV Testing Day. According to the CDC, more than 20 percent of people living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware they're infected. Every nine and a half minutes someone in the United States is infected with HIV, approximately 56,000 new cases a year.
The routine testing pilot program in several Houston emergency rooms found one in a hundred undiagnosed new HIV cases. Texas is fourth in the nation for reported cases of AIDS, and there are pockets in Houston where infection rates rival that of African nations. One in every 378 Texans and one in 93 Houstonians is living with HIV/AIDS.
"Thankfully, HIV is no longer a death sentence, but it is clear that early diagnosis is the key to fighting the disease and its spread. Unfortunately late diagnosis is a reality for many infected with HIV. Many only find out their status after being sick with the symptoms of AIDS. The years between HIV infection and AIDS is a crucial time for treatment and prevention of transmission. Almost 1 in 4 of all recent diagnoses in Texas received an AIDS diagnosis within one month of their HIV diagnosis," said Senator Ellis.
Studies have shown that the sooner a person is made aware of their status, the sooner they will change their behavior, which will reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others. CDC believes that the number of new cases of HIV each year could be decreased by up to 30% with routine screening in all heath care settings.
"Last session I introduced legislation that would have implemented the 2006 CDC recommendations to increase access to HIV testing by incorporating it into routine medical care and by removing legal and reimbursement barriers to testing. Even today, there is still a stigma attached to HIV. Most physicians will only test you if they know enough about your life to assess your risk. This legislation would have taken the guess work away from physicians and the burden away from patients having to ask for an HIV Test. The bill did not pass, but I will file the bill again in the upcoming session. Passage of health care reform provides a platform for access, but we must pass legislation that makes HIV testing a benefit all people can receive. HIV testing should be as routine as getting a flu shot," Senator Ellis continued.
Free testing events will take place throughout the month of July. Visit http://www.hivtest.org/ to find a testing location.