The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 people in the US who are infected with HIV don’t know it. Symptoms of HIV and AIDS can take years to develop, testing is the only way to know. People who don’t now they have HIV don’t get the treatment they need to keep HIV from developing into AIDS. Often they do not live as long and have more health problems than people who know they have been infected. Also, most new HIV infections are from people who don’t know they are infected.
The free HIV testing currently being set up is a trial program. If people not currently getting tested for HIV take advantage of the free tests at local pharmacies, the CDC hopes that more people with HIV will learn they are infected and get treatment and that fewer people will be infected.
In order to protect people’s privacy, the tests are arranged so that a person can ask to get tested without anyone else knowing – for instance by quietly handing a pharmacist a card about HIV testing. The actual test is often done in a private room. Results are available with in 20 minutes.
The trial program will run in 24 cities and rural areas for 1 year. If it is successful it mat be expanded to other areas.