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AIDS testing saves lives

First Lady Laura Bush, interviewed by Dr. Gary Puckrein, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum and the “Test for Life” campaign:

Q. Today is National HIV/AIDS Testing Day. Why is it important for people to get tested for HIV/AIDS?

More than a million Americans have HIV, and a quarter of them don't even know it. It's important for people to be tested so that they know their status, and so that if they are HIV-positive they can protect their loved ones by making healthy decisions to prevent the spread of HIV.

The good news today is that thanks to dramatic improvements in treatment and care, people are now living with HIV/AIDS – instead of waiting to die from it.

Q. There are so many people who are HIV positive and do not know it. Why are people afraid to be tested?

As new medicines bring hope and an enhanced quality of life for HIV-positive people, Americans are becoming complacent about the disease. And there remains a stigma associated with HIV. That's something we need to talk about, and fight against. That's why efforts like National HIV Testing Day and the “Test for Life” campaign are helpful. HIV/AIDS respects no borders, geographic, economic, racial or political, it affects us all. I urge all Americans to know their status.

Q. African American and Hispanic women account for 82 percent of newly diagnosed women with HIV in 2006. Why do you think HIV/AIDS is a crisis among African American and Latino women, particularly in the Southeast?

Those statistics reflect the unfortunate fact that African American and Hispanic/Latino communities continue to face challenges in accessing health care, prevention services and HIV testing and treatment. These figures also underscore the vital role of prevention and treatment education, as well as voluntary screenings.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others are working to reduce the health disparities experienced in the communities of minority races and ethnicities at high risk for HIV infection. To find a testing site, you can visit www.hivtest.org.

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