FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A national HIV campaign, “Take the test, take control” is the theme behind National HIV Testing Day on Friday.
1.1 million people are living with HIV, but more individuals could be living with the virus and don’t know it. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one out six people don’t know their HIV status. That’s why there’s been a push for national campaigns to get people tested. Kathy Thornson, director of HIV Prevention for the Allen County Health Department, said the number one reason behind the lack of testing is fear.
“There’s a fear there to go get tested and know things are going to change,” Thornson said. “It’s not what you’ve known up to this point.”
National HIV Testing Day was launched in 1995 and is an annual campaign to encourage people of all ages to get tested. Once a person is tested, Thornson said it’s the first step to healing and medication.
“If you have it, it’s better to test and know it to start active steps to improve your health and stop that virus from being able to duplicate, which is when it does more harm to the body,” she said.
Testing for the virus has changed over the years. Instead of having your blood drawn and waiting days for results, there’s a new testing method which includes swabbing inside the mouth. The swab sits in a small container with a chemical inside which tests for any antibodies in your system that’s trying to attack HIV viruses. The normal wait time for the results of that test is 20 minutes.
If a person is HIV positive, Thornson said medicine for the virus as advanced tremendously. She said decades ago, a person would have to take 30 to 40 pills to keep the virus under control, but now some people are taking one pill.
She said a HIV positive person who keeps taking their medicine could eventually become undetectable. According to the CDC, data suggest that HIV-infected persons with undetectable viral load are less infectious, and may be less likely to transmit HIV via sexual contact.
Rapid HIV testing will be available Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Walgreens, 118 E. Creighton Ave. No appointment is necessary and results can be given in 20 minutes.
The Department of Health also offers HIV testing at other sites on an ongoing basis and for a fee at its clinic at 4813 New Haven Ave. To make an appointment, call (260) 449-7504.
To find other testing locations near you, visit www.hivtest.cdc.gov or text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948).