National HIV Testing Day highlights importance of knowing HIV status
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 250,000 people in the United States are HIV-positive and don’t know it.
Officials with local AIDS service organizations hope to help remedy that situation, at least in part, by participating in National HIV Testing Day on June 27.
National HIV Testing Day is a campaign produced each year by the National Association of People With AIDS to encourage people to get tested. Bret Camp, director of the Nelson-Tebedo Health Resource Center, said he thinks the effort works.
“We tested 166 people last year in one day. That’s a pretty busy day,” Camp said.
“I think we will exceed that this year. Public awareness is higher this year, and we are promoting it more aggressively than before.”
As the AIDS epidemic enters its 26th year, Camp said he sees a renewed emphasis on HIV testing.
“I think people are becoming more aware, realizing what their risks are,” Camp said. “Part of it is a generational thing. The kids who five or 10 years ago thought they were invincible are starting to realize that they are “‘vincible,’ after all.”
Camp said that for those who are HIV-positive, “getting the proper care early on, before you’re immune system has been significantly compromised – that’s the key to surviving HIV.”
He added, “The medical regimens these days are easier, less intimidating. The side effects are not as bad now as they were in the early days.”
HIV testing can also help stop the spread of the virus if those who discover they are positive take the necessary precautions.
Camp said the Nelson-Tebedo Health Resource Center is planning ahead to make the testing as quick and easy as possible for those who come in to take advantage of National HIV Testing Day.
“We already have lots of volunteers lined up to do pre-test and post-test counseling. We have extra nurses coming in to do the phlebotomy. All of our volunteers have left their schedules open that day to be available to help those who come in,” he said.
Camp said the tests offered will be the standard ELISA blood test, with positive results confirmed through the Western Blot test. The tests will be performed anonymously or confidentially, depending on the client’s preference.
Some results will be available as early as July 3, but most will take about a week due to the July 4 holiday, Camp said.
The clinic is also offering free syphilis testing that day, he added.
The Nelson-Tebedo Health Resource Center, 4012 Cedar Springs Road, provides free, anonymous or confidential HIV and syphilis testing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 27. For more information, call 214-528-2336.
For a list of sites in North Texas offering HIV testing, go online to www.hivtest.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 16, 2006.