National HIV Testing Day: Free testing Friday - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

National HIV Testing Day: Free testing Friday

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

About 2,300 people in West Central Georgia have HIV, and more than one million people in the U.S. live with the disease.

About one in five of those people are unaware of their infection, and health officials are urging everyone to receive free, confidential testing on Friday, June 27, in honor of National HIV testing day.

"Each year when we have National HIV Testing Day, we have a good number of the community come out and get tested," says Pam Fair with the Columbus Health Department. "People want to know what their status is so they can take control and take the test."

Take the test, take control. This is the message the Columbus Health Department is sending out to the community for National HIV Testing Day.

"I think sometimes people might be afraid of what those results are, and concerned about what those results may bring," Fair said. "However, when you get tested at the health department, we are going to be with you for every step of the way. If you are tested positive, we will link you to care. If you are negative, we will give you tips and advices to help you stay that way."

The Columbus Health Department will be offering free confidential HIV testing and counseling on Friday, June 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at their location on 2100 Comer Ave. The program will offer oral swab testing, which takes twenty minutes.

"Once you are tested positive for HIV on your oral swab test, we will then proceed to draw blood," Fair explained. "But no appointment is necessary, and we see about 50 people every year on National HIV Testing Day. Our District Clinical Services Prevention Program of the Columbus Health Department will be handling the free testings."

According to the CDC, African Americans are the racial group most affected by HIV, and African Americans' chances of being diagnosed with new HIV infection is eight times greater than other racial groups.

"Most of the times, people don't want to get tested, because they don't want anyone to know," explained Juanita Hubbard with Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation. "But I tell them to don't worry about what people think. You have to find out about your status first. You have to think about yourself first."

Chattahoochee Better Way Foundation will be hosting their free HIV testing session at the Columbus Public Library on 3000 Macon Rd. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

"Come out and get tested," Hubbard said. "But if you cannot make it tomorrow, we offer free testing throughout the week in our office located on 4411 Rosemont Dr."

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