June 27th marked this year's National HIV Testing Day. In observance of this nation-wide event, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) hosted a testing site held at Vroman's Bookstore in the Pasadena Playhouse District. In addition to promoting HIV Tests that were given free to the public, Portantino invited local dignitaries to join him in receiving HIV Tests to promote the concept that everyone should be informed as to their HIV status. On-site, confidential HIV tests were provided by the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) and Aids Service Center assisted with on-site counseling and education. The OraQuick rapid HIV test was utilized, simply requiring a fast oral swab of the inner cheek, typically producing results within 20 minutes.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a person becomes infected with HIV every 9½ minutes. At the end of 2006, an estimated 1.1 million persons were living with the HIV infection, 21% of which were undiagnosed. Early detection of the virus is the most effective way to treat the illness, increase life expectancy, increase quality of life, and prevent the spread of HIV. It remains equally as important for those who do not have HIV to know their status so that they can continue to take proper precautionary measures to ensure their personal well-being and stem the proliferation of the infection.
"As we approach the end of the third decade of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our nation, it is more important than ever for every person to know their status," said Assemblymember Portantino. "Regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, or sex, all people should be tested as a part of their personal health care. The established ideas of ‘high-risk' populations are somewhat outdated, as HIV infection rates increase among non-traditional groups. African-Americans, particularly young heterosexual females, are among the fastest growing demographics of those contracting the virus and this goes largely unnoticed by the public. This is just one example of why it is so critical to get the information out there and get people tested," stated Assemblymember Portantino.
The CDC reports that while African-Americans make up roughly 13% of the United States population, they account for nearly 50% of those infected with HIV. Another surprising demographic experiencing a rise in the rate of HIV infection are those of people 50 and older. In 2005, it was estimated that 24% of people living with the infection were 50 and older, a 7% increase from 2001.
In addition to hosting a National HIV Testing Day event, Assemblymember Portantino has introduced AB 221, legislation which would make it easier for HIV tests to be administered by certain qualified medical professionals.
Assemblymember Portantino was first elected in 2006. He is currently serving his 2nd term and sits as the Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.