June 26, 2019

Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, HHS Executive Commissioner

Contact: 
Kelli Weldon, 512-424-6951
Kelli.Weldon@hhsc.state.tx.us

June 27 Marks National HIV Testing Day

AUSTIN – Texas Health and Human Services is encouraging people throughout the state to get tested for HIV, know their status, and connect with care and treatment services available to them as needed.

"One in seven people who have HIV don't know it. Early detection is imperative to helping people live longer, healthier lives and is key to decreasing transmissions," said Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, HHS executive commissioner. "As part of our mission to improve the health, safety and well-being of Texans, we are encouraging people to know their status and talk with a physician about their HIV risk."

More than 90,000 people in Texas are living with an HIV diagnosis. Through testing, services and public health interventions, Texas health officials are aiming to decrease the prevalence of disease in Texas and are calling for increased testing and early diagnosis.

"The first phases of HIV infection often have no symptoms, so timely testing is critical to preventing more serious illness and preventing the spread of new infections," said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Department of State Health Services Commissioner. "Anti-HIV medications can reduce the amount of virus in the blood to an undetectable level, helping people with HIV stay healthy longer and greatly reducing the risk of transmitting the infection. But you have to know your status to know how best to protect yourself and those around you."

DSHS is partnering with Greater Than AIDS and Walgreens to encourage people to help stop the HIV epidemic by getting tested on National HIV Testing Day. Walgreens is offering free testing at 43 stores in 14 cities around Texas from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 27. There is also a list of providers that perform free or reduced-cost testing in more than 40 Texas cities at http://www.dshs.texas.gov/hivstd/testing. Or ask your health care provider for an HIV test during your next visit.

As part of the national effort to increase awareness and testing, people can locate free and low-cost HIV testing sites through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://go.usa.gov/xmm6E.

The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. The only way a person can know for sure whether he or she has HIV is to get tested.

More than 4,000 Texas residents were diagnosed with HIV in 2017, and public health experts estimate that 18,000 Texans currently have HIV and don't know it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide information on the current epidemic and identify the counties with the highest numbers of new HIV diagnoses. The five counties in Texas with the highest HIV impact are: Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis counties. More information is available here.

This year's National HIV Testing Day theme, "Doing It My Way," highlights how and why people make testing part of their lives. People can increase awareness with social media posts using the #HIVTestingDay, #DoingItMyWay and #NHTD hashtags.

Texas Health and Human Services Programs

As part of HHS, the Texas Department of State Health Services' mission in public health is to identify, report, prevent, and control HIV, AIDS, and STDs in Texas. DSHS is dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs while minimizing complications and costs. This is achieved primarily through education, prevention counseling, screening and testing, and the provision of medical and social services. The agency is responsible for surveillance and data management, as well as field operations and clinical resources. To learn more about DSHS programs, visit https://www.dshs.texas.gov.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission's HIV Early Intervention Services program provides comprehensive case management services to people living with HIV and substance use issues. Texas HIV outreach workers offer case management, education and referrals to people who are at high risk for HIV infection. Additionally, free or low-cost services including screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections are covered by HHSC's Healthy Texas Women and Family Planning programs for eligible patients. Texas residents can dial 2-1-1 to learn about programs and services. More details about HHS programs are available at https://www.hhs.texas.gov.