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National HIV Testing Day is a campaign to encourage at-risk individuals to receive HIV counseling and testing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, including 300,000 people who are HIV-positive but unaware of their status. HIV counseling and testing enables people with HIV to take steps to protect their own health and that of their partners, and it helps people who test negative get the information they need to stay uninfected.

This annual observance is critical to the fight against HIV/AIDS because it presents an opportunity for people to learn their HIV status and to gain the knowledge needed to take control of their health. It is an invaluable opportunity to dispel the myths and fear and stigma associated with HIV testing, and to reach those who have never been tested or who have engaged in high-risk behavior since their last test.

National HIV Testing Day brings renewed attention to the urgent issue of HIV/AIDS and the reasons why getting tested is crucial. If there is any chance you may be at risk, getting tested for HIV is the only sure way to know if you have the virus. The reasons for testing are dual in nature: First, if you learn you are infected with HIV, you can get treatment that may help you live longer, and second, if you learn you are not infected, you can find out what to do to stay that way.

Too many Americans with HIV are diagnosed late in the course of their infection, when they may not be able to fully benefit from life-prolonging treatments.

Persons should get tested for HIV if they have ever:

  • had unprotected sex, especially with someone who has ever injected drugs.
  • shared needles or works to inject drugs (even insulin or steroids).
  • shared needles for piercing or tattooing.
  • had a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • had many sex partners.

HIV testing is less invasive than ever with the advent of the Rapid HIV test, which involves a finger stick to obtain a drop of blood. The blood is then processed in developing solution with results available in about 20 minutes.

The Yellowstone City-County Health Department offers anonymous HIV testing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon from 1-4 p.m. at Deering Community Health Center at 123 S. 27th St. No appointment is necessary and there is no charge for the test, however, a donation of $10 is requested. No one is refused an HIV test due to inability to pay. A trained HIV counselor/tester will meet privately with you.

The Yellowstone City-County Health Department offers HIV testing in other locations during evening hours. For more information and additional testing times, call 247-3376.

HIV testing is also available by appointment at the Yellowstone AIDS Project and Planned Parenthood. Call YAP at 245-2029 or Planned Parenthood at 656-9980 for more information.

Debbie Hedrick is the Community Health Services Director at the Yellowstone City-County Health Department. She can be reached at 247-3377or debbieh@ycchd.org.

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