January 15, 2013
Because of better treatment and prevention, people view HIV and AIDS as less threatening than when the virus was discovered in 1981, reported Christine Schuyler, commissioner of human services for Chautauqua County Health Department. However, the virus is still a major threat to health, and people who do not know they have the virus can pass it to others. HIV occurs in all population groups.
HIV incidence rates for Chautauqua County -- 6.7 per 100,000 persons in 2009 -- are well below New York State and U.S. averages. A 2010 New York state law requires that healthcare providers offer HIV testing to "everyone between the ages of 13 and 64."
HIV is transmitted through direct contact with HIV-infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The risk of HIV infection increases through unprotected sex and the sharing of needles or syringes. The virus does not spread via kissing or the exchange of saliva. People with HIV may not have symptoms for up to 10 years. Schuyler recommends abstinence and avoiding unprotected sex to avoid HIV infection.
The health department offers free and confidential HIV and STD testing. Interested persons should call (800) 604-6789. The health department connects HIV-infected people with Erie County Medical Center's Immunodeficiency Services Clinic for care and case management services. There are two locations: the Jamestown office at 110 E. Fourth Street and the Dunkirk office at 319 Central Avenue.
Evergreen Health Services offers free, walk-in rapid HIV testing from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Mondays at 111. W. Second Street in Jamestown. Testing is offered by appointment only Tuesday through Friday.
Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc. (COI) can help HIV-infected people find permanent housing. Interested persons should call the Jamestown office at (716) 661-9430 or the Dunkirk office at (716) 366-8176 or visit the COI website at http://chautauquaopportunities.com/.