BREWSTER – World AIDS Day is Dec. 1, a date set aside to increase awareness of the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic around the world and a time to remember loved ones who have died as a result of AIDS-related illnesses.
To commemorate this annual international observance, the Putnam County Department of Health is offering free rapid HIV testing and education on Friday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 1 Geneva Road, Brewster.
Results take just 20 minutes and no appointment is necessary. Testing for Hepatitis C, another viral infection that can be spread through contact with infected blood, will also be available at the same time.
Although new treatments and technologies have slowed the progression of HIV to AIDS, the disease remains a major health problem both in the U.S. and worldwide. Advances such as rapid HIV testing and anti-viral drugs allow people with HIV to live long, healthy, and productive lives. However there is still no vaccine or cure. Early diagnosis is the key to early treatment. The only way for an individual to know if he or she has HIV is to be tested.
“Early, appropriate treatment can make all the difference in the quality and length of life for someone infected with the HIV virus,” said Interim Commissioner of Health Michael Nesheiwat, M.D. “Early testing and diagnosis is not just important for an individual’s health, but also from the public heath standpoint of protecting others.”
Many adults are not tested for HIV because they do not feel sick and they don’t think they are “at risk.” However, in the early stages of HIV infection, a person may not show any illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that 1.1 million individuals in the United States are living with HIV and one in seven of those infected do not know they are HIV positive. As more people live with the disease, the chance of becoming infected increases. Despite this, large scale prevention efforts have led to fewer new infections in recent years. Getting tested is a first step towards prevention.
For more information about HIV or Hepatitis C testing, or their prevention, contact the Health Department at (845) 808-1390.