BETHESDA, Md., June 27 (UPI) -- The 19th annual National HIV Testing Day is Thursday, but health officials say any day is a good day to be tested for the sexually transmitted disease.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said HIV testing is important because it gives a person the information needed to make good health decisions.
"If you test negative, you can take steps to stay that way, which may include periodic testing if you engage in high-risk behaviors. If you have HIV, there are medications that will help you stay healthy and live longer," Sebelius said in a statement. "These medications -- known as anti-retroviral therapy -- also make it significantly less likely that you might pass the virus to someone else."
The Affordable Care Act has already expanded access to free HIV screening for many people. For those living with HIV/AIDS, the healthcare law will help to ensure patients get the care and treatment they need.
"On Jan. 1, 2014, many of the ACA's most important provisions will begin increasing access to healthcare for millions of Americans, including those living with HIV/AIDS," Sebelius said.
Since the mid-1990s, the number of people diagnosed with HIV each year has remained relatively stable at about 50,000 infections per year, Sebelius said.
Certain groups, including African Americans, Latinos, and gay and bisexual men of all races/ethnicities, continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, she said.
However, between 2008-10, new HIV infections among African-American women declined by 21 percent, Sebelius said.