Community health official says ‘you should be getting tested’ on National HIV Testing Day

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day — a day to encourage HIV testing so that people can know their status and those who test positive can promptly begin treatment — and a local nonprofit is making sure D.C.-area residents know they have options.

“It’s so important to get tested, it’s important to know your status. Linkage to care is vital,” said Ramatoulaye Keita, director of community health and wellness at Whitman-Walker Health.

The clinic has been a leader in LGBTQ+ health care for more than 50 years, and began providing care for AIDS patients when the epidemic struck in the early 1980s.

“HIV is still an epidemic, especially in D.C. We still have … about 11,000 folks living with HIV in D.C. So we want people to get preventive care, we want to reduce HIV acquisition in communities and to ensure that people who are in care are actually virally suppressed, and people who are positive actually linked to care,” Keita said. “The first step to do that is to get tested.”

HIV is most commonly spread through sexual activity with someone who has contracted the virus. It can also be transmitted through pregnancy, sharing syringes, blood and other bodily fluids.

Although there is no total cure for HIV, treatment can reduce the amount of the immune system-attacking the virus in one’s body. Certain antiretroviral medications, such as Biktarvy and Truvada, can treat the infection to the point that the virus is near-undetectable in the patient and keep the person’s immune system working.

If left untreated, HIV can cause AIDS.

There are multiple test options including rapid tests and at-home testing. You can schedule an appointment at any of Whitman-Walker’s locations in D.C. by calling 202-797-4439.

“If you are having sex, you should be getting tested for HIV. If you are an intravenous drug user, you should get tested for HIV,” said Keita. “You should always get tested every three months.”

WTOP’s Ciara Wells contributed to this report.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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