June 24, 2010 | by Sarah McKibben
National HIV Testing Day is Sunday

Nationwide, more than 1 million people are living with HIV. Yet up to 250,000 are unaware that they’re HIV-positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. For those unaware of their status or due for what experts recommend as a yearly test, this weekend is the perfect time to get tested as Sunday is National HIV Testing Day. Several local events are planned.

Washington’s Whitman-Walker Clinic will sponsor free and confidential rapid testing and outreach events today through Tuesday. Rapid testing uses a quick finger prick to obtain a small sample of blood and offers results within 20 minutes.

Pernell Williams, community outreach manager for Whitman-Walker, suggests routine testing.

“The CDC recommends getting tested every six to 12 months,” he says.

In 1995, the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) launched the annual campaign “in response to the growing number of HIV infections in communities of color and other heavily impacted communities.” Each year on June 27th NAPWA works with thousands of community-based organizations, businesses and health departments to encourage routine HIV testing and to spread the message to “Take the Test, Take Control.”

Although National HIV Testing Day effectively puts the issue into the spotlight, Williams believes the best way to promote testing is by word of mouth. “The power behind days like this is when community members talk to their friends, family, coworkers and associates about getting tested,” Williams says. “It’s about the involvement of family and friends who can gain the ear of those people who need to hear it most.”

For those who may be afraid to get tested, Williams assures that their fear is “absolutely normal.”

“I haven’t met a single person who was not afraid to get tested and who did not catch their breath when they were about to hear the results,” he says.

“The struggle is to let the desire to survive supersede the unease. Know that if you discover your status is positive, the best way to guarantee survival is to get treatment, which you can only get after a diagnosis,” he says. “An HIV-positive diagnosis is a scary thing for a lot of people, but without a doubt it saves lives.”

For those who test positive, Whitman-Walker offers the resources necessary to understand the diagnosis and lay out a plan of action to treat the virus.

“The first thing we do is try to assess the mental and physical health of the person,” Williams says. “We take confirmatory tests to verify the presence of the virus in their system and then our providers measure their overall health and look for associated illnesses like hepatitis or other STDs.”

Schedule of Events

Today
• Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, 1701 14th St., N.W., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Max Robinson Center, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Greater Baden Medical Services, Suitland Health and Wellness Center, 5001 Silver Hill Rd., 2nd Floor, Suitland, Md., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday
• Benning Neighborhood Library, 3935 Benning Rd., N.E., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Giant, 1050 Brentwood Rd, N.E., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday
• “God’s People are Getting Tested” Initiative, Christ Lutheran Church, 16th and Gallatin Streets, N.W., noon to 3 p.m.
• MLK Memorial Library, 901 G St., N.W., 1 to 4 p.m.

Monday
• Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, 1701 14th St., N.W., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Max Robinson Center, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Greater Baden Medical Services, Glenarden Apartments Health Center, 3028 Brightseat Rd., Suite 104, Glenarden, Md., 1o a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tuesday
• Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, 1701 14th St., N.W., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Max Robinson Center, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Greater Baden Medical Services, Glenarden Apartments Health Center, 3028 Brightseat Rd., Suite 104, Glenarden, Md., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Gay Men’s Health & Wellness/STD Clinic, Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, 1701 14th St., N.W., 6 p.m.

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