What’s your status? June 27 is National HIV Testing Day

Published 9:45 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

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Tuesday, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD). Since 1995, this is a day observed to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment.

For over a decade, Tito Terry, HIV program coordinator for District 4 Public Health, has been an advocate of encouraging people to get tested regularly as a prevention method.

“Getting tested assists us in routinely taking stock of all of our own personal healthcare needs; not just HIV,” Terry said. “I frame it in my own mind that if we get tested on a regular basis, we will develop a better and beneficial healthcare screening routine. Once we get that routine down, there could be a higher chance that our total health and wellness will be benefited.”

Terry said in Georgia one in every five individuals with HIV doesn’t know they are positive for the disease.

“With the free, confidential rapid HIV testing that’s now available, along with so many effective medications and treatments, it’s best to find out your status as soon as you can,” Terry said. “Whether you’re positive or negative, we can help you take charge of your health by linking you with the care and support you need.”

All health departments in District 4 provide free, confidential, rapid HIV testing with a small finger prick, with results ready in 60 seconds after being tested. If a test is positive, the health department can confirm it with a laboratory blood test. Because District 4 health departments are part of Georgia’s Test-Link-Care (TLC) Network, they can help individuals connect with a linkage coordinator to be sure they receive the medical care and support services they need to live a long and healthy life with HIV.

Individuals whose test results are negative can receive information on protecting themselves from HIV infection, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications, condoms and other sexual health services such as vaccines and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Terry said PrEP is a medication that reduces the chance of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 percent and reduces the risk of getting HIV from injecting drugs by 74 percent. According to the CDC, it is even more effective if combined with other preventive measures.

“HIV Rates in LaGrange and Troup County are not as high as other counties in Georgia, but District 4 Public Health still recommends regular HIV Testing, PrEP consideration and STD screenings if people plan on being sexually active,” Terry said.

Terry’s HIV Prevention team works along with District 4’s county health departments to provide referrals so that eligible patients can receive free PrEP medication through the Gilead Advancing Access program. They also can provide referrals for PeP (post-exposure prophylaxis), which is a medication given to prevent HIV after possible exposure. It should only be used in emergencies and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, according to the CDC.

Free HIV self-test kits also are available at capus.dph.ga.gov/ehe or can be picked up at the Troup County Health Department. HIV self-testing can be done at home, with results available in about 20 minutes. Free condoms are available at District 4 county health departments. To receive free condoms by mail, visit bit.ly/D4_CondomsByMail.

For more information on HIV prevention, testing, and care, contact Terry or Ana Soler at District 4 Public Health at (706) 845-4035. For health department appointments, call (800) 847-4262.