National HIV Testing Day 2024

Essential Prevention Tips and Testing at Heartland Community Health Center

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is observed on June 27th each year to emphasize the importance of HIV testing and encourage everyone to know their status. Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and early diagnosis is critical. The CDC reports that about 1 in 7 people with HIV in the United States are unaware of their infection.

This year’s NHTD theme is “Let’s Stop HIV Together.” Knowing your HIV status is a crucial step towards maintaining your health and preventing the spread of the virus. Regardless of your status, accessing prevention or treatment services can help you live a long and healthy life.

Testing recommendations suggest that everyone aged 13-64 should get tested at least once, with higher-risk individuals needing more frequent tests. HIV has a disproportionate impact on minorities and the LGBT+ community, with sexually active gay and bisexual men advised to consider testing every 3-6 months.

Heartland Community Health Center is the only provider in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas, offering point-of-care (rapid) HIV testing. These rapid tests deliver results within minutes using a small blood sample, making it easier and quicker to know your status.

 

HIV Prevention Steps and Strategies

Taking proactive steps to prevent HIV transmission is vital. Here are some key strategies:

  • Opt for lower-risk sexual activities: Choose sexual practices that significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Activities such as oral sex or non-penetrative acts that avoid contact with semen, vaginal fluids, or blood carry little to no risk of HIV.

  • Use condoms correctly and consistently: Proper use of condoms every time you have sex is highly effective in preventing HIV and many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea and chlamydia. Condoms are widely available for purchase and often provided for free at clinics.

  • Consider PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): PrEP is a preventive medication that, when taken as prescribed, is highly effective in preventing HIV from both sexual activity and injection drug use. Unfortunately, many who could benefit from PrEP are not currently using it.

  • If you inject drugs, use clean equipment:

    • Always use new, sterile needles and syringes for each injection.
    • Dispose of used needles properly and obtain new ones from syringe service programs (SSPs) or pharmacies.
    • If new equipment is not available, thoroughly clean used needles with bleach, though this is not as safe as using new ones.
  • Avoid drug injection when possible: Completely abstaining from injecting drugs eliminates the risk of HIV transmission through this route. Seek support from healthcare providers for substance use treatment and explore options like medication-assisted treatment.

  • Consider PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) if exposed: PEP is a medication taken after potential HIV exposure to prevent infection. It must be started within 72 hours of exposure, so seek medical advice immediately if you think you may have been exposed to HIV.

“Knowing your status is empowering,” said Jill Burgen, Family Planning Provider at Heartland Community Health Center. “By getting tested, you’re taking a vital step in protecting your health and contributing to the broader goal of reducing HIV transmission.”

Heartland provides comprehensive health care for individuals living with HIV and participates in the Ryan White Program, which assists Kansans with HIV who have a family income at or below 400% of the federal poverty guidelines. Services include primary medical care, medication assistance, health insurance assistance, mental health counseling, substance use treatment, dental care, case management, and other HIV-related medical and support services.

For those who do not qualify for the Ryan White program, Heartland offers all these services on a sliding scale. This ensures that all patients, regardless of income or insurance status, have access to the necessary resources to monitor and treat infection, promoting the highest possible quality of life.

Family Planning & Reproductive Health Services at Heartland Community Health Center

Heartland is your community resource for all reproductive health and family planning needs, including:

  • Pregnancy testing
  • Contraception/birth control
  • Testicular exams
  • Sexually-transmitted infection (STI) testing & treatment
  • HIV testing, treatment, and prevention
  • Health education and counseling
  • Cervical cancer (HPV) screening and pelvic exams
  • Breast exams
  • Diagnosis and treatment of vaginal infections
  • HPV vaccinations

 

To learn more about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment, contact Heartland at 785.841.7297.

Jill Burgen, APRN, is a family planning & reproductive health provider at Heartland Community Health Center.