HIV counseling and testing (C&T) is an important part of a continuum of HIV prevention and treatment services. C&T is one of the main times when a comprehensive individual risk assessment is taken, making it the best opportunity for accurate referrals to more intensive services. C&T is also one of the primary entry points into prevention and other services. C&T uses short, client-centered counseling that can be effective in increasing condom use and preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Knowing one’s HIV status, whether HIV- or HIV+, is key to preventing the spread of HIV and accessing counseling and medical care. It is estimated that one-fourth of all HIV+ persons in the US do not know they’re infected. A survey of young men who have sex with men (MSM), found that 14% of young Black MSM were HIV+. Among those, 93% were unaware of their infection, and 71% reported it was unlikely they were HIV+.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an initiative aimed at expanding C&T in the US. Their Strategic Plan for 2005 strives to decrease by 50% the number of people who don’t know their HIV status. If this goal is met by 2010, an estimated 130,000 new HIV infections may be prevented, saving over $18 billion.