This column appears in the Nevada Appeal’s Tuesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Today, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day, and Carson City Health and Human Services wants to remind everyone that HIV testing is the only way to know for sure whether you have HIV. In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, free HIV testing will be provided at our office located at 900 E. Long St. this Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. An informational booth will be set up in lobby for those wishing to learn more about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Of those people, one in seven don’t know they are infected. The purpose of HIV Testing Day is to help people who might be at risk for HIV learn if they have the virus, and figure out strategies to protect themselves and others from infection.
HIV can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, or age. However, certain behaviors can increase someone’s risk to get HIV. In the United States, having sex with someone who is already HIV-positive without using a condom is the most common way to spread HIV. Since it is impossible to tell by looking at someone if they are infected, having sex without a condom with anyone whose HIV status is not known should be considered a risk for HIV. Having unprotected sex with more partners increases your risk. Sharing needles, syringes or other equipment to inject drugs is also a way that many people become infected with HIV. Sharing contaminated needles should be considered a risk for HIV.
Frances Ashley, who serves as the HIV Treatment Adherence Counselor for Carson City Health and Human Services, is excited to reach out to the community. Ashley emphasizes that everyone should be tested, and is grateful for the opportunity to reach out to those who might otherwise be unable to access health services like HIV testing.
HIV Testing Day focuses on providing knowledge about HIV risks and empowering people to take responsibility for their health. For those who take part in HIV testing day, it’s an important step to a healthy life. Many face apprehension about being tested. However, it’s important to know your status to make sure you have the best chance to stay healthy. Elaine Bergenheier, a Public Health Investigator who conducts HIV testing, encourages everyone to know their status.
“The test is quick and easy. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s the only way to know for sure if you’re infected,” Bergenheier said.
HIV testing is available in the clinic at Carson City Health and Human Services during normal business hours, even if it’s not HIV Testing Day. For information about other Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.