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National HIV Testing Day: What you need to know

Whether you use condoms may rest, in part, on your age and ethnic group. When it comes to vaginal intercourse, Caucasians reported using them less than African-Americans and Hispanics. But overall, teens seem to be getting the safe sex message, especially males. Seventy-nine percent of young men between 14 and 17 said they used condoms. That was 21 percentage points higher than than their female counterparts.People over 40 have the lowest rates of condom use and it declines rapidly with age. Only 5 percent of men over 60 years old are using them.Older people may be less concerned about pregnancy. They may also be in need of remedial education about sexually transmitted diseases. istockphoto

(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.

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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.

In New York City, testing centers were set up in Times Square, according to New York 1. In Houston, organizers offered free tickets to a hip-hop concert in exchange for getting tested.

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.

Click here to learn more, and find a testing location near you.

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