Health & Medicine

Thursday is National HIV Testing Day, with free services offered throughout Sacramento area

Ending the HIV Epidemic

An informational video from the Center for Disease Control about ending the HIV epidemic.
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An informational video from the Center for Disease Control about ending the HIV epidemic.

Thursday is National HIV Testing Day, with free testing, care and treatment offered throughout the Sacramento region, according to the county Public Health Department.

National HIV Testing Day is “a day to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment if they have HIV,” said Sacramento County Health Department spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno in an email to The Bee. “This year’s theme, Doing It, Testing for HIV, reminds us that HIV testing should be a part of everyone’s regular health screening routine.”

Just in Sacramento County, 4,559 people have been diagnosed with HIV, according to Bongiorno. “Although the underlying cause was not necessarily HIV-related, there were 63 deaths in Sacramento County to persons living with HIV in 2016,” Bongiorno said.

Of the 1.1 million people across the United States living with HIV, 1 in 7 are unaware of their condition, according to a news release by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

If left untreated, HIV infections are life-threatening. But, according to the health officials association, HIV-infected people who take proper medication “can live long, healthy lives.” Ensuring that people know their HIV status “is the first step in getting connected to HIV care and treatment for those who are HIV-positive,” the group said.

If you are between the ages of 13 and 64, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get tested. You can get tested for free Thursday at about 20 locations across the county, according to CDC’s Act Against Aids service locator app.

Walgreens and Greater than AIDS are working together through the National HIV Testing Day Community Partnership to “broaden the reach of HIV testing and information in non-traditional settings and help people understand the latest in HIV prevention, treatment and care,” according to the release.

Thursday, Walgreens will offer free HIV testing from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at three locations in Sacramento County: North Oak Park, Arden Arcade and Elk Grove. Each location also will provide one-on-one counseling sessions with on-site experts and PrEP, the pill to help prevent HIV.

Bongiorno said the Health Department supports and promotes PrEP through its HIV/STD Prevention Program. “The PrEP medication is taken daily to lower an individual’s chance of getting HIV if exposed to the virus,” Bongiorno said. “Multiple studies indicate PrEP to be at least 90% effective at reducing the risk of HIV infection if used correctly, with some studies showing even higher levels of effectiveness.” PrEP is available both as a preventive measure against HIV and as a remedial measure up to 72 hours after it was contracted, Bongiorno said.

In Woodland, Davis and West Sacramento, free and confidential HIV testing will be administered at Teen Clinic, which offers sexual and reproductive health services to patients 12 or older.

If you can’t make it tomorrow, check out the Greater Than AIDS maps of HIV/AIDS service organizations and community providers that offer low-cost HIV testing, care and treatment.

According to HIV.gov, you can also get HIV testing year-round at:

  • Your health care provider’s office

  • Health clinics or community health centers

  • STD or sexual health clinics

  • Your local health department

  • Family planning clinics

  • VA medical centers

  • Substance abuse prevention or treatment programs

For more information on HIV, testing and resources the county Health Department encourages you to visit its webpage, or call 916-875-6022.

Well-intentioned laws meant to prevent the spread of HIV have instead helped contribute to the stigma around the disease. By basing the laws on outdated science, studies have shown that the laws actually hurt the public health effort to reduce the

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Caroline Ghisolfi, from Stanford University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and health care. She grew up in Milan, Italy.

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