National HIV Testing Day: Dr. Rachael Ross Speaks On Its Importance

A few weeks ago I teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to bring you guys an up close and personal look at HIV by sharing the stories of two brave women living with the disease. Now it’s time for all of us to do our part and take action against new infections by getting tested.

In case you didn’t know, today (Friday, June 27th)  is National HIV Testing Day. What better day than the present to know your status?  Especially, when statistics show that we BGs are disproportionately affected by the disease. OraQuick Advance, the first FDA-approved in-home oral rapid HIV test, makes it simple and easy to find out where you stand. In fact, you can get results in as little as 20 minutes.

OraQuickOraQuick is available at drugstores nationwide, $39.99

Famed physician Dr. Rachael Ross (co-host of “The Doctors”) has joined forces with OraQuick to help spread the message about the importance of getting tested. I recently spoke with Dr. Ross, who is also an author and sexologist about her partnership, startling facts and advice for those who may receive a positive diagnosis.

Dr. Rachael RossPhoto via:

Check out some of the highlights from our chat:

BGG: There are many opportunities to help raise HIV awareness, why did you want to partner with OraQuick?

Dr. Rachael Ross: OraQuick is the only advance that I can 100% put myself behind. I’ve been an HIV advocate since college. So, to be able to do it now as a practicing physician and media personality is huge. If I can encourage one or two people to go out and get tested, I’m preventing. I’m preventing them from passing it on to the next person and I’m also preventing them from having a shortened life span (because they won’t be taking the proper medications). I’m also doing prevention because they may even tell their family and friends. Anytime I can use my platform to talk about HIV prevention, which is at the core of my heart, I’m on it.

BGG: Is OraQuick just as effective as someone being tested in a clinic/doctor’s office?

Dr. Ross: Nine times out of ten, if you ask for a rapid test at a clinic they’re going to give you the same one that would be found at the store. The only difference is that it may be packaged differently for at-home consumption. For example, there might be a 800-number if you have questions. OraQuick is 99% accurate and allows you to do the testing in the comfort of your home. However, with any type of rapid testing, it takes 3-6 months for the test to show positivity. So, if you contracted HIV last week, the test is not going to let you know that. That’s the case with all rapid tests, whether it’s at the clinic or at home. I encourage anyone who thinks they may as though they may have contracted HIV within the past few weeks; they’re going to have to get a blood test to get that information.

BGG: What do you think is the most important thing we can do to help reverse the stigma attached to HIV?

Dr.Ross: I’m not sure there’s a stigma. I think what needs to happen is that people need to understand  that there are currently 1.1 million living with the virus in the United States and many of them don’t know it. Also, African-Americans are 8 times more likely to contract the virus than anyone else in this country. HIV is so preventable and it’s running rampant in our community. Half of HIV infections are concentrated in the South where we are, as well as our HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).

NOTE: HIV testing is especially important in the African American community, where HIV incidences are growing. Unless the course of the epidemic changes, at some point in their lifetime, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV.

BGG: Why do you think it is that we don’t hear much about HIV-related cases as much as we did in the ’80s and ’90s?

Dr. Ross: HIV used to be a death sentence, but it’s now considered a chronic illness. Since we’ve gotten away from 20-somethings dying, we’ve moved to this thing that we can’t see. HIV is now easy to manage and you don’t really have to tell people that you have it. You can take your medication and vitamins and people won’t know. Also, because it predominately affects African-Americans. When you have illnesses that predominately affect minorities, it’s not on the minds of the majority. Therefore, it’s not going to be something that we talk about regularly.

BGG: What advice would you give to someone who has just received a positive HIV diagnosis?

Dr. Ross: First, recognize that it is not the end of the world and that life continues to go on. Second, get a support system together. In most cases that’s going to be your family; be careful with your friends because friends gossip. Third, get a really good infectious disease doctor. You can’t go to your primary care doctor because you need someone who specializes in HIV care. Also, plan for your future. If you do become positive, remember that it is illegal in many states to have unprotected sex with someone without informing them about your status. Your whole life changes so you have to be protective of yourself and those around you. Knowing and getting on medication is the best thing you can do for yourself.

For more information on HIV prevention, testing, facts, etc,  please visit

Will you get tested today in honor of National HIV Testing Day?

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