Why Is HIV Still Going? One Reason: 1 in 5 Don’t Know They Have It

We break down some of the most alarming stats showing how and why HIV is still spreading 30 years later.

By Asraa Mustufa, Stokely Baksh Jun 27, 2011

Today is National HIV Testing Day, a cross-country campaign to encourage individuals to get tested for HIV, especially young people.

HIV/AIDS continues to be a national epidemic, with African Americans and poor communities disproportionately affected. Blacks make up roughly half of people living with HIV, half of new infections, and more than half of late testers. "The background prevalence of HIV in [African American] communities is so high that even when individuals engage in less risky behavior, they’re more likely to encounter an infected partner and they may be at risk," said Dr. Donna McCree, associate director for health equity for the Center for Disease Control’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. "HIV testing is a critical first step to preventing the AIDS epidemic in the United States, particularly when we talk about communities that are disproportionately impacted, and it’s critical because the sooner you know, the better."

However, the likelihood of someone being unaware that they are infected is heightened for people of color, youth, and gay and bisexual men, which is the only population in the country where the annual number of new HIV infections is increasing. The Obama administration’s HIV/AIDS strategy, released last summer, aims to increase the proportion of people with HIV who know of their HIV status to 90 percent of Americans. Tantamount to reaching this goal is expanded and targeted testing to make quick and confidential HIV tests more accessible to the most affected groups.

Below, we break down some of the key stats showing how crucial HIV testing is to ending the epidemic. To find a testing center near you, check out the National HIV Testing Day’s online tool for getting tested.

–Asraa Mustufa