HIV testing: Do you know your status?

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Dates and locations for free walk-in HIV testing

• Thursday, June 28 - Bonners Ferry clinic, 7402 Caribou St.

• Wednesday, June 27 - Sandpoint clinic, 2101 W. Pine St.

• Tuesday, June 26; Wednesday, June 27 - Hayden clinic, 8500 N. Atlas Rd.

• Monday, June 25; Thursday, June 28 - St. Maries clinic, 137 N. Eighth St.

• Wednesday, June 27 - Kellogg clinic, 35 Wildcat Way

Currently an estimated 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, including about 162,500 people who are unaware of their status. Experts recommend everyone be tested for HIV. Panhandle Health District is encouraging people to learn their HIV status by offering free walk-in appointments for HIV tests from June 25 to June 28 at locations throughout North Idaho.

Tina Ghirarduzzi, senior health specialist with Panhandle Health District, said the main goals of offering the free testing are to decrease the stigma surrounding HIV while increasing testing and raising general awareness of the infection.

“I think a lot of people think it’s not a problem in our community or they’re not likely to get it,” Ghirarduzzi said. “We want people to be aware.”

New cases of HIV have been on the rise in North Idaho since 2013.

“It’s important to know your status,” Ghirarduzzi said.

It’s good to know if you are HIV positive because an infected person can remain asymptomatic for up to five years. The individual will look and feel fine while transmitting the infection and not receiving medical care. Approximately 40 percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who are living with undiagnosed HIV.

And contrary to what many people think, a positive diagnosis is not a death sentence. Therapy is available.

“You can live a relatively normal, healthy life with medications that can both treat and prevent HIV,” Ghirarduzzi said. “Many factors can decrease someone’s chance of getting or transmitting HIV. Safe sex practices are best including properly using condoms every time you engage in sexual behavior and choosing safer sexual behaviors.”

Testing is completely confidential and results are available immediately with rapid testing at Panhandle Health District clinics.

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