It's National HIV Testing Day

This release, originally appeared on the Ms. Foundation for Women and was provided by Elizabeth G. Hines:

Women living with HIV in America rarely attract big headlines—not even when it comes to policies that impact their lives directly. But it’s not just the media that ignores the experiences of women living with HIV in the US; our major policy setting body on public health, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, continues to embrace standards on HIV testing that minimize the risk of infection to women—despite the fact that in the last 20 years, the percentage of women’s AIDS cases in America has more than tripled, rising from 8% in 1985 to 27% in 2005.

Today, HIV infection is the leading cause of death for African-American women aged 25-34 years. Decisions made by the CDC on who is “at risk” for contracting HIV are literally a matter of life and death. And one recently released report by a former CDC official offers a critical example of how women’s needs too often get left out of the policy agenda.

Earlier this month, David Holtgrave, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, released a report that challenges recent attempts by the CDC to mandate routine HIV testing among U.S. residents. Going against the grain of the CDCs new policy, Holtgrave suggests that targeting HIV testing of “high-risk” groups could be a more effective method of identifying those who are unaware of their HIV-positive status than conducting the routine testing within clinical settings the CDC now recommends.

We at the National Women and AIDS Collective applaud Dr. Holtgrave’s effort to create more accurate HIV testing policies and procedures. But we also know that unless targeted testing and universal testing are both a part of the picture—and fully funded—women will continue to fall through the testing system’s cracks. Why? Because the CDC’s current methodology for identifying risk is fatally flawed when it comes to women and HIV.

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