HIV Testing: Why Aren't More People Doing It?
September 24, 2010
Stigma still makes people reluctant, even afraid, to get screened for HIV, health officials say. And yet an HIV diagnosis is the first step to care, treatment, and learning how to avoid transmitting the virus to others.
"We have to bring it out in the open, make it not a fearful thing to get a test," said Terri Ford of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "HIV testing should be streamlined to be as convenient and accessible as possible for the person that is getting the courage up to get an HIV test," she added.
Thanks to a mobile testing unit deployed by San Diego County's Health and Human Services Department, free HIV screening and counseling are quick and convenient, officials say. The discreetly marked unit sets up once a week in Balboa Park and periodically at other locations.
"We do rapid testing, so clients get their test results within 20 minutes," said Heidi Aiem, who manages county testing and counseling services. "And we have two exam rooms that are set up to do HIV counseling and blood draws."
"We're not getting people who are just concerned about the risks they're taking," said Terry Cunningham, chief of the county's HIV, STD and hepatitis branch. "They're waiting until they physically get ill, and that means that they're well along in the disease process."
That is especially true of African-American residents, who have the county's highest AIDS rate. Besides a fear of testing, some people would "rather not know" their status, said Acintia Wright, founder of Woman 2 Woman, a support group for African-American women with HIV. "The stigma is still very attached to HIV, and they would rather not be associated with the stigma."
"I think many, many people just do not perceive that they have any HIV risk at all," Aiem said.
KPBS.org (San Diego)
09.26.2010; Kenny Goldberg
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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