HIV was identified in 1984 by French and American scientists, which allowed companies to begin development of a test for antibodies produced in response to the virus. The first test was approved for use on March 2, 1985.  However, at that time, American’s were terrified that the country’s blood supply was contaminated even though only a small percentage of the early infections had been traced back to transfusion, the government prioritized the testing of the country’s blood supply. By July of that year, America’s blood supply was being regularly tested and declared “free of AIDS”.

Testing then moved on to individuals, and it wasn’t until March of the following year – a full year later – that government had issued a recommendation that people in all “high-risk groups” undergo periodic testing to determine if they were infected with the virus.  However, people living with HIV were horribly stigmatized, and just getting a test was interpreted as a sign of belonging to a high-risk group (which included homosexual men, intravenous drug users and prostitutes, among others).  Public Health officials and local HIV agencies started anonymous testing to help increase testing without fear or your insurance, family or friends from finding out your status.  People arriving for testing would have blood drawn, and be given a reference code with a phone number to call back in 2 weeks (or more) for results.  Even with a test result, at that time, there was no effective treatment available.

Today, HIV still carries a powerful stigma.  However, tremendous strides have been made in the LGBTQ+ movement, sexual freedoms, normalization of testing, testing advances (including 1-minute rapid tests), and incredible advances in HIV treatment that can render the virus “undetectable” in a person where the virus can not be passed to another sexual partner.  Those are huge strides – HUGE.

As we approach Dia de los Muertos, remember, honor and celebrate the 700,000 people who have died from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses in the U.S. by getting an HIV Test.  Welcome and celebrate with those souls the tools we have available today, and utilize those tools so that AIDS-related deaths end with each of us.

Order a FREE At-Home HIV Test Kit from The Action Center today to test from the comfort of your home and get your results from a simple oral swab in 20 minutes.  Or, book an appointment aboard The Chariot and we’ll not only bring one-on-one, FREE Rapid HIV Testing to your doorstep, but we’ll also get you set up with HIV Treatment or PrEP to prevent HIV based on your test results while you’re aboard!