The biggest obstacle in providing HIV treatment isn't a lack of resources or awareness—and it's causing 1.2 million people to go undiagnosed

By Lauren Mazzo
November 19, 2015

Have you ever pushed off an STD test or a visit to the gyno because you think that just maybe that rash will go away-and, more importantly, you're terrified of what the results might be? (Please don't do that-We Are In the Midst of an STD Epidemic.)

Those jitters aren't just keeping people form dealing with minor health issues. In fact, the biggest obstacles in providing HIV treatment-and preventing patients from even getting tested in the first place-are fear, anxiety, and other psychological barriers, according to a new study published in AIDS and Behavior.

Catching HIV with an early diagnosis is crucial; it means a reduced likelihood of spreading it further, a better response to treatment, and reduced mortality and morbidity, according to the researchers. But when they analyzed 62 previously published studies looking at the psychological and social stigma around HIV, they found that the majority of people who did not seek out testing were either afraid of the test or feared getting a positive diagnosis.

That's a major issue, since almost 13 percent of the more than 1.2 million Americans with HIV are unaware that they even have the virus, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's a lot of people walking around without any clue they're putting others at risk. (Find out How to Talk to Your Partner About Your STI Status.)

The findings from this study suggest that there should be more emphasis on addressing the stigma of HIV, in order to encourage people to get tested, according to Newsweek. Let Charlie Sheen and his brave announcement lead the way.

So next time your gynecologist asks about getting an HIV test, just say yes. You'll be taking a step towards protecting your health, and all your future sexual partners. (And might we suggest buying stock in the New Killer Condoms That "Neutralize" HIV, HPV, and Herpes?)


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