World AIDS Day: Why You Should Be Tested for HIV

Shockingly, only 45 percent of Americans have been tested for the disease.

woman at doctor office
(Image credit: Deborah Jaffe/Taxi)

Today is World AIDS Day, a day to take stock of how well organizations are doing to combat the disease. And according to the United Nations' AIDS program, the overall HIV infection rate has declined almost 20 percent in 10 years, which is great news.

But despite that and because I'm a paranoid hypochondriac alarmist, I was shocked to see a new CDC report, announced yesterday, that found that only 45 percent of Americans have been tested for HIV at least once in their lives. This is up from only 40 percent in 2006, but, if you ask me, the number is still dismayingly low — especially when you consider that the CDC urges everyone to get routine testing.

So, who should get routine testing? Anyone who is sexually active — because the more quickly you discover it, the better able you are to treat it.

I also always ask anyone I'm dating about his sexual history and if he's been tested. Because: If I don't feel comfortable enough with a guy to ask him all this stuff ... well, then, maybe I shouldn't be having sex (or doing much else with him) in the first place, right?

Still, I try not to make it into a medical exam, complete with clipboard and nurse's outfit (though I'm sure there are some guys who wouldn't mind that kind of thing). Usually, I'll initiate the conversation on a night when we seem to be progressing from kissing to something more physical. And I'll say, "Hey, because I'm interested in my health — and yours — can you tell me if you've had an STD test recently?" If he hasn't ... I'll insist he get one.

I guess this is all a long way of encouraging all of you to get tested more — and to be firm about asking that your partners do, too. If you're not sure where to go to get it done, ask your primary care doctor, or your gyno, or check out Planned Parenthood's find-a-location page. And if you just want more info on getting tested, check out