Free HIV testing available from health departments and community-based health groups in June; key to AIDS prevention

In honor of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, community-based organizations and local health departments are hosting free HIV testing throughout the month of June. HIV is an infection that can lead to AIDS, and early screening and detection of HIV are critical to fighting the disease, avoiding further health complications and ensuring it isn't unknowingly transmitted to others.

“Routine testing ensures HIV-positive individuals are made aware of their status early before the disease progresses to AIDS,” said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, which is promoting the HIV testing and awareness events through mini-grants. “Testing remains one of the most critical and effective strategies for preventing transmission, ensuring good health outcomes, keeping service costs low and keeping infected individuals healthy.”

About 20 percent of people with HIV don't even know they are infected, which is very problematic because these individuals are believed to transmit HIV to more than half of the people who become newly infected each year, and one-third of the people is diagnosed so late that they develop AIDS within one year, says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2010, 32 percent of Kentucky's 7,751 HIV cases led to an AIDS diagnosis within 30 days of the initial infection, says a Cabinet for Health and Family Services release. This highlights the importance of routine testing, which the CDC recommends for everyone, regardless of risk factors, especially for all people age 13 to 64.

"A delay in diagnosing HIV is a life and death issue, with many individuals receiving a concurrent diagnosis of HIV/AIDS upon initial testing. Early intervention and linkage to care is critical to enhance the quality of life and reduce costs for treatment,” said Gayle Yocum, HIV/AIDS prevention section supervisor, in the CHFS release.

In Kentucky, HIV disproportionately affects racial minorities, particularly the African-American and Hispanic populations. Although African-Americans represent 7 percent of the state’s population, they account for 34 percent (2,884) of new HIV infections. Individuals who are at a higher risk for infection should be tested at least annually, including those with multiple sex partners, injection drug-users and their sex partners, people who exchange sex for money or drugs, men who have sex with men and sex partners of someone with HIV, says the CDC.

Kentucky testing sites

The Department of Public Health's statewide network of HIV testing sites provide risk reduction counseling and helps individuals develop a behavior-change plan to reduce the risk of getting or spreading HIV. Here's a list of the statewide events providing free HIV rapid testing in the next two weeks:

June 17, free testing and education, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Salvation Army of Bowling Green, 400 W. Main Ave., Bowling Green.
June 20, afternoon gospel fest, noon to 5 p.m., New Beginnings Church, 4127 Flintlock Drive, Louisville.
June 22, church health fair, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Faith Fellowship, 727 S. 15th Street, Louisville.
June 25, free testing, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 2106 St. Louis Ave., Louisville.
June 28, free testing and education, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Housing Authority of Bowling Green, 247 Double Springs Road, Bowling Green.
June 28, neighborhood test fest, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nia Center, 2900 W. Broadway, Louisville.
June 29, free testing, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Walgreens, 110 Town Center Dr., Lexington.
June 29, free testing, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Crossings, 117 N. Limestone, Lexington.
July 3, free testing, 8 p.m. to midnight, The Bar Complex, 224 E. Main Street, Lexington.

Click here for more information about HIV and AIDS, about the National HIV Testing Day/Month Campaign or other programs and services.
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