Washington County to offer free HIV testing

June 26, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

Free esting

  • What: Free HIV Testing by the Washington County Health Department

  • When: Friday, 3:30-5 p.m.

  • Where: Parkside Community Building, 416 Sumans Ave., Hagerstown

The number of Washington County residents who have tested positive for HIV has more than doubled in the last five years, increasing the need for people to practice safe sex and to be tested for the virus, the supervisor for the Washington County Health Department's HIV program said Wednesday.

The health department is offering free HIV testing Friday as part of National HIV Testing Day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 180,000 to 280,000 people in the United States have HIV and don't know it.

AIDS - acquired immune deficiency syndrome - is the advanced stages of disease caused by HIV - human immunodeficiency virus.

The county health department's HIV program supervisor, Jenny Taylor-Gray, said that in Washington County, health officials estimate that:

  • About one-third of the people with HIV are aware they have the virus and use local services to battle the condition.

  • One-third are aware they have HIV but refuse medical help.

  • One-third are unaware they have HIV.

People in this region and elsewhere are becoming less careful about taking steps to reduce the chances they will get HIV or AIDS, Taylor-Gray said.


She urged all adults, as well as youths who use drugs or have had sex, to be tested for HIV. Friday's tests are available for people ages 13 and older.

People should insist their partners also be tested, Taylor-Gray said.

If someone involved in an intimate relationship is unwilling to be tested, that person's partner needs either to use protection or not have sex with that person, Taylor-Gray advised. If the relationship ends as a result, "then it is not a relationship based on trust," she said.

"Unfortunately, in the dating scene this is part of the dialogue. It has to be," Taylor-Gray said.

There has been a trend in recent years of heterosexual women getting HIV from their partner, who may have gotten it from drug use prior to their relationship, she said.

There has been less public attention on HIV and AIDS in recent years and, as a result, some are being less careful to protect themselves from contracting the virus through drug use or sex, she said.

If HIV is detected early, medical treatment seems to prevent it from progressing to AIDS, she said.

Those get test negative for HIV but engage in risky behavior should be tested about every six months, she said.

AIDS most often is spread through sexual contact, contaminated needles or syringes shared by drug users, infected blood or blood products and from pregnant women to their offspring.

More information can be obtained by calling the Health Department at 301-791-3147.

HIV cases double

  • In Washington County 29 people tested positive for HIV and 12 tested positive for AIDS between April 1 2001, and March 31, 2002.

  • Since 1994, 119 people have tested positive for HIV and 84 people who have tested positive for AIDS in Washington County.

- Source: Maryland AIDS Administration

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