Human Immunodeficiency Virus can take many years to affect a person’s health. It uses the cells in the immune system to reproduce and slowly diminish the immune system’s ability to fight off other infections. In the latter stages of HIV disease, a person can become very ill and develop AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that by the end of 2009 more than one million people in the United States were living with HIV. More than 200,000 of these cases (one out of five) are people who do not know they are infected. Many people have no symptoms when they are infected, so HIV testing is a very important step in stopping the spread of HIV. Those who are tested and know their HIV status are less likely to spread the infection to others.
HIV is spread through the sexual fluids and blood of an infected person to an uninfected person. This can occur by having unprotected sex and/or sharing needles with infected people.
As of Dec. 31, 2011, in Solano County there were 1,229 reported cases of people living with HIV. Racial and ethnic disparities in HIV also exist. As mirrored in national and state trends, Solano County has a high rate of HIV infection in people of color. African-Americans, who comprise approximately 15 percent of the county’s population, represent 35 percent of reported cases. Perhaps more significantly, African-American women represent 50 percent of the reported female cases of AIDS.
HIV testing has never been easier. Solano Public Health encourages people who are at risk for HIV infection to get tested and learn their HIV status to stop the spread of HIV.
“The sooner you know your HIV status, the sooner you can get treatment, and also protect your partners from HIV infection,” said Peter W. Turner, M.P.H, Solano County Public Health HIV Education Program. “The rapid test is a less stressful and more convenient way for people to learn their HIV status, since it doesn’t involve a blood test and people get their results in about 20 minutes.”
Solano County Public Health offers free, confidential tests for those who are uninsured or underinsured or who are in a high-risk group, including men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, sex workers and people whose partners are HIV positive.
Rapid HIV testing is available at these Solano Public Health locations:
People can receive a text message to find other clinics that offer HIV testing (as well as testing for other sexually transmitted diseases) by texting their 5 digit ZIP Code to KNOWIT (566948).
For more information, contact the Solano County AIDS Hotline at 553-5552.
Cara Drake is Senior Health Education Specialist, HIV Education Program, Solano Public Health, Solano County Health & Social Services a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.