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Saturday, June 27, 2015 is National HIV Testing Day, an awareness campaign. National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) founded National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) in 1995 in response to the HIV epidemic’s steady growth,  in the middle-income neighborhoods where people thought, “it doesn’t happen here”.

All Americans need to know they should Take the Test, Take Control, at least once a year. And we should also know that people with HIV, who are in treatment with Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) drugs, are significantly less at risk for passing their virus on the others than people with HIV, who are not in treatment. Test-and-treat is not the whole answer to the epidemic, but it’s an indispensable first step.

More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, but one in six does not know they are positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all Americans between the ages of 13-64 get tested for HIV as part of routine health care. Early diagnosis and treatment improves health, extends life and helps prevent the spread of HIV. Greater Than AIDS is proud to support our partners across the nation in your outreach and testing efforts around National HIV Testing Day. Greater Than AIDS makes available free informational and promotional HIV/AIDS materials for download under the theme of ‘I Got Tested,’ produced especially for this day.

AIDS organizations to offer FREE HIV testing during June. You can also find local free and low cost HIV testing throughout the year here: http://locator.aids

Despite increases in the total number of people living with HIV in the US in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high a level, with an estimated 56,300 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.

If you are at risk “Take the Test, Take Control”. If you are not at risk, it is critical to be informed with information and programs that help maintain healthy behaviors and avoid infection. Help and support are available through Romall Watson, Case Manager and Social Worker for Bladen County Health Department. Services available are referral/linkage, resource development, medication assistance through pharmaceutical companies, and North Carolina AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

Ms. Watson is responsible for collaborating with area resources for assistance to clients. Ms. Watson states, “Together we can make a difference in the community through education, collaboration and participation to combat the deadly AIDS epidemic. But the first step is to know if you are infected by being tested.” Carol Strickland and Marianne Valentiner, both Health Educators at Bladen County Health Department state, “HIV/AIDS is not going away.” Many people are infected each day simply because of lack of education. Education information is available on the internet, through the local health department and local physician’s offices. We can get this epidemic under control but only through education and learning how to protect ourselves.

What do you do to get tested? HIV tests are no charge and confidential at the health department Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 11:00am and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Call for your appointment and/or information; some blood will be drawn and sent to a lab for testing. Test results will return in less than ten days. The health department offers pre-test and post-test counseling on the test, what the test means, and how to lower your risk for infection.

Where is testing available? Local healthcare providers, your local physician and the local public health department offer free confidential testing during regular hours. (Call for further information).
For more information or to comment please contact Bladen County Health Department at 910-862-6900.

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