WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Monday is recognized as National HIV Testing Day to raise awareness about the importance of testing and getting an early diagnosis.

Many testing sites and events were shut down due to COVID, and now health centers are working to get testing up in their community.

The Beaufort County Health Department hosted a free HIV testing event Monday at the Old Fort Washington Housing Authority building with rapid and traditional blood draws available. Rapid results come back within 20 minutes, and traditional blood draws takes anywhere from 10 to 12 days to get results back from the state.

“One in seven people live with HIV and don’t know, that’s why it is such a need to make sure we have testing days such as this”, says Beaufort County Public Health Specialist, Brittany Joseph. “If someone tests positive, I would call them and have them come back to the health department and we would discuss their test results and kind of what that looks like and refer them to ECU adult specialty care in Greenville for treatment.”

Joseph said they do testing like this about twice a year, roughly every six months.

According to the CDC, over 1.1 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in the United States as of 2020. Of those, only about 87% knew they had HIV. Worldwide it’s nearly 38 million people.

Sexuality, race and ethnicity play a role in those who are most affected by HIV. In 2020, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 68% of new HIV diagnoses, and heterosexual contact accounted for 22% of new diagnoses. Black/African Americans are most affected by HIV, accounting for 42% of new diagnoses in 2020. Additionally, Hispanic/Latinos are also strongly affected, accounting for 27% of new diagnoses.

According to the CDC, in 2020, there were over 18,000 deaths among people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S., however, this number should be taken with caution due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on access to testing, care services, and case surveillance.

Scientists are still working on a cure for HIV, and there is currently no vaccine. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.

HIV is not the same as AIDS. AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV when the body’s immune system has become too badly damaged because of the virus and leads to death over time.

To find an HIV testing site near you using your zip code or city click here. You can also call 1-800-232-4636, or visit gettested.cdc.gov