National HIV Testing Day, held on June 27 each year in the United States, is associated with a significant peak in HIV testing rates and in the number of new HIV diagnoses, according to a report published June 24 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Researchers analyzed data from National HIV Prevention Program Monitoring and Evaluation for more than 13 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–funded HIV testing events from 2011 to 2014. They found the number of testing events peaked significantly in June, compared with the mean from January to May and July to December each year.
When they looked at the number of new HIV infections diagnosed each day in the 2 weeks before and after National HIV Testing Day, they also saw a significantly higher rate of new diagnoses on June 27, compared with days around it.
When compared with the next highest peak of HIV testing events each year, the National HIV Testing Day showed a 25% increase in 2011, a 40% increase in 2012, a 20% increase in 2013 and a 17% increase in 2014.
These peaks were evident and significant for all individuals aged 20 years or above, across sex and gender, for men who have sex with men (MSM) and heterosexuals, and across ethnicities and racial groups ( MMWR. 2016 Jun 24;65:613-18 ), with MSM identifying as white, black, or Hispanic/Latino showing significant increases in both testing and new diagnoses in June.
“Promoting NHTD [National HIV Testing Day] is an effective strategy to increase HIV testing and thereby, the number of persons who are aware of their HIV status,” wrote Dr. Shirley L. Lecher and colleagues from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “These findings indicate persons at highest risk for HIV by age, sex, racial/ethnic group, and target population are effectively reached by mass testing campaigns.”
The authors did qualify the findings by pointing out that June also coincidences with community-based testing events associated with gay pride celebrations in many U.S. cities, and that their analysis did not include HIV tests supported by other funding sources.
Meanwhile, another study in the same edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that despite a push for routine HIV testing among adults and adolescents, fewer than one in a hundred males visiting a physician’s office are tested for HIV in that visit. ( MMWR. 2016 Jun 24;65:619-22 ).
By analyzing data from the 2009-2012 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and U.S. Census data, researchers showed that overall, an HIV test was performed at 1% of physician visits by young males. That figure was higher among black males (2.7%) and Hispanic males (1.4%), compared with white males (0.7%).
“Although higher proportions of black and Hispanic males received HIV testing at health care visits, compared with white males, this benefit is likely attenuated by a lower rate of health care visits,” wrote Dr. D. Cal Ham and colleagues from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.
Testing rates were highest among males aged 25-29 years (1.8%), followed by those aged 20-24 years (1.7%), and lowest in those aged 35-39 years (0.6%) and 15-19 years (0.6%).
“CDC recommends repeat testing at least annually for persons at high risk for HIV infection, and although the optimal annual percentage of visits with an HIV test to achieve universal testing is unknown, these results indicate there are opportunities to improve HIV testing rates at physicians’ offices,” the authors noted.
No conflicts of interest were declared for either study.