As the country marks National HIV Testing Day, local advocates extol the benefits of knowing your HIV status



Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

There are a lot of good reasons for making a point of knowing your HIV status. Most of them can be grouped into two major categories.

First of all, notes Resource Center CEO Cece Cox, knowing their HIV status gives a person who is HIV-positive a chance to get into care. Getting proper treatment means that people with HIV are able to live longer, better lives, she said.

Getting proper treatment also helps lower a person’s viral load — a measurement of the amount of HIV in their system — and having a lower viral load not only means a person is healthier, it also means there is less chance they will pass the virus along to someone else.

The second reason, Cox added, is that “knowing your status usually correlates to behavior.” In other words, if you know you are HIV-positive, you are more likely to protect your intimate partners by practicing safer sex. And perhaps those who know they are HIV-negative will be more likely to do their best to stay that way.

Dr. Jason Gillman, a physician with Dallas’ AIDS Arms, also stressed the importance getting tested and knowing one’s HIV status.

“Early detection makes a difference,” Gillman said. “We know … that treating HIV earlier reduces the risk of serious illness and death by 53 percent.”

Reiterating the benefits of reducing a person’s viral load, he added, that suppressing HIV can reduce transmission by 96 percent. “Clearly,” he said, “a decision to have an HIV test today can save not only the life of the person tested, but perhaps the life of a friend as well.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.2 million in the U.S. are living with HIV, and frighteningly, nearly 1 in 7 don’t even know they are infected. Since the height of the epidemic in the mid-1980s, according CDC statistics,  the number of new HIV infections each year has gone down by about two-thirds, from about 130,000 each year to about 50,000 each year.

Despite the years of education and prevention efforts in the LGBT community, men who have sex with men of all races and ethnicities continue to be the population in which the largest numbers of new infections are found each year, according to the CDC. Next are African-American straight women. Looking at race/ethnicity overall, African-Americans are the most heavily affected, according to the CDC, followed by Latinos.

CDC statistics show that the number of new infections among men who have sex with men ages 13-24 increased by 22 percent from 2008 to 2010. Young black MSM account for 55 percent of new infections among MSM in that age range. In fact, the CDC points out, young black MSM now account for more new infections than any other subgroup by race/ethnicity, age and sex.

There was a 12 percent increase in HIV incidents among MSM overall from 2008-2010.

According to Dallas County statistics (provided to Dallas Voice by Resource Center), in 2013, an estimated 15,500 people were living with HIV in Dallas County, an increase of about 69 percent compared to 2003. From 2009 through 2012, 37.8 percent of all newly-diagnosed people in the county progressed to a concurrent AIDS diagnosis within 12 months of being diagnosed with HIV.

HIV/AIDS cases in Dallas County are disproportionately higher among African-Americans, reflecting the national trend. And in 2013, 60 percent of new HIV diagnoses were among people age 35 and younger
Gillman also pointed out that HIV testing has improved significantly over the last 10 years and is now available in clinical and non-clinical settings alike, using samples of either blood or saliva. There are also different kinds of tests available, some offering results in as little as one minute.

In the past, it could take as long as three months after exposure for HIV antibodies to show up in testing. Now, though, Gillman said, RNA testing is available that can detect HIV within 10 days of exposure. And most testing centers can also offer tests for other STDs, as well.

Still, no one can take just one HIV test and be done with it. Even if you have been tested before, you should be tested again.

“It is important to remember that an HIV test is a single snapshot in time and reflects the state of your body only at the moment your blood or oral fluid was collected,” Gillman said. “Persons at high risk for HIV infection should consider repeat testing at regular intervals.  And perhaps most importantly, whether at high risk or low risk for HIV, no one should feel embarrassed for being proactive and getting tested.  Our health, after all, is our most valuable commodity.”



HIV Testing Options

National HIV Testing Day is Saturday, June 27, and AIDS Arms Inc. is honoring the day with pop-up locations for free HIV testing in Oak Lawn and in Cockrell Hill through Sunday, June 28.
NHTD pop-up testing locations are:
• Thursday, June 25, 3-7 p.m.
at Walgreen’s, 3802 Cedar Springs Road.
• Thursday, June 25, 3-7 p.m.
at Walgreen’s, 8120 S. Cockrell Hill Road.
• Thursday, June 25, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
at Havana’s, 4006 Cedar Springs Road
• Friday, June 26, 3-7 p.m.
at Walgreen’s, 3802 Cedar Springs Road.
• Friday, June 26, 3-7 p.m.
at Walgreen’s, 8120 S. Cockrell Hill Road.
• Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
at Walgreen’s, 3802 Cedar Springs Road.
• Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m..
at Walgreen’s, 8120 S. Cockrell Hill Road.
• Sunday, June 28, 11 p.m.-3 a.m.,
Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road.
AIDS Arms, 351 W. Jefferson, Ste., 300, also offers free HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C testing and risk reduction education. Anyone who tests positive for HIV, syphilis and/or hepatitis C is linked to medical care and other needed services.
Call 214-521-5191for a testing appointment or go to the office between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Offices are closed from noon-1 p.m. daily.

Resource Center
On Saturday, June 27, to mark National HIV Testing Day, Resource Center will offer free HIV testing at Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, 4012 Cedar Springs Road, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and at LGBT Family Day event at Dallas City Hall,
1500 Marilla St., from 4-7 p.m.
Nelson-Tebedo Clinic offers HIV and STD testing during regular business hours by appointment only. Hours are Monday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., no drop-in hours; Tuesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., no drop-in hours, Wednesday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., no drop-in hours; Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., drop-in from 4-8 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., drop-in from 4-7 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., drop-in 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The clinic is closed on Sundays.
Walk-in testing cannot be guaranteed same day service during regular testing hours. Call 214-393-3700 to make an appointment.
Confidential one-minute rapid HIV antibody and early detection screenings with a syphilis test are free. This includes the rapid HIV anti-body test that detects HIV after three months and the early detection HIV RNA tests which detects HIV after 10 days. Results for these tests are available in 7-10 business days.
Anonymous rapid HIV antibody screening requiring a blood draw and with results available in 30 minutes are $90.
Screenings are also available for gonorrhea/Chlamydia for $40; for herpes for $90 and for hepatitis A/B/C for $120. Individual hepatitis testing is available for $40 per test.

AIDS Outreach Center
AIDS Outreach Center in Tarrant County hosts the Know Your Health Fair on Saturday, June 27, with free food and free HIV testing, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 536 Randol Mill Road in Arlington.
HIV testing is available at AOC’s HIV Testing Center, 400 N. Beach St., Ste. 100, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays, and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays.
For information call 817-335-1994.