Free, confidential HIV testing will be offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 26 through June 30 in recognition of National HIV Testing Week.
By appointment only, Bill Hyer, HIV coordinator for Gila County, will be at the county health office in Payson to administer the test for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
"It's a confidential test," Hyer said. "Arizona is not a name-based state. There is no big secret master list anywhere."
Preliminary test results of the finger-stick blood test are ready in about 25 minutes.
Hyer destroys the results after 90 days.
State law requires him to report statistical information, like age and how HIV was contracted for those who test positive.
"If it is a negative result, we consider it negative," Hyer said. "If it is a positive result, then we would want to draw blood and verify that test with a second test."
It takes two weeks for the laboratory results of the second test.
"We are lucky in Arizona in that once a person tests positive with the quick test, we can get that person into medical service immediately if they wish," Hyer said.
Through the Ryan White Care Act the federal government funds medical treatment and medications for people who cannot afford them.
"Another service that we provide, if a person tests positive, I help people notify their partners," he said.
All the state health departments interact to ensure that people are notified and, if they wish, to be tested.
"The goal is to reduce the infection rate by giving more people more knowledge about their status," Hyer said.
The prevalence of HIV in Gila County is extremely low.
Out of a population of 52,000 there are currently 35 HIV-positive individuals on record, Hyer said.
It is estimated that 50 percent of the people in the United State living with HIV do not know they have HIV, Hyer said.
AIDS is treatable, but not curable, he noted.
"We look at AIDS as a chronic disease. We can treat it and if individuals change their risky behaviors they can live a long time," he said. "I've known people that have lived a long time, 20 years, by following their medications."
Nearly 40 percent of all the new cases of HIV are heterosexual women over 50.
Approximately 45 percent of all the new cases of HIV are youth between 16 and 25 years old.
"We have a lot of what we call prevention fatigue, where we have been telling people to protect themselves and they just aren't listening quite as much," Hyer said. "The risk is there. It is in our communities.
"Knowing your status protects not only you but the person you are with now or the person you may be with in the future."
-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.