(CBS) Today is National HIV Testing Day. The annual event is co-sponsored by the National Association of People with AIDS and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to spread awareness and let people know how and when to get an HIV test.
And government officials in high places are also rallying people for today's events.
"National HIV Testing Day reminds each of us to do our part in fighting HIV/AIDS and get tested," President Obama said in a White House statement. His administration released a National HIV/AIDS Strategy last July, with the goals of reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.
"One in five Americans living with HIV is not aware of their infection and this research highlights the imperative of making sure people know their HIV status and getting those who do have HIV into care," the President said.
Their lack of awareness contributes to the fact that 40 percent of people with HIV aren't diagnosed until they have developed AIDS, which can be up to 10 years after they were infected.
That's why health officials around the country are using today to spread awareness.
And health officials think measures like these will work. The CDC recently announced findings from a three-year, $111 million initiative they kicked off in 2007 to increase HIV testing awareness. Over three years, 2.8 million tests were given that helped diagnose almost 18,500 people who didn't realize they had HIV.
"But more than half of U.S. adults aged 18-64 still have never been tested for HIV, and our work is far from over." Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, STD and TB prevention, said in a written statement.
That initiative targeted African-Americans, who accounted for 60 percent of tests and 70 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the study - and were 1.6 times more likely to test positive for HIV than whites or Hispanics. These numbers reflect long-standing HIV healthcare disparities in the U.S., where data show that while African-Americans represent 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly half of new HIV infections every year.