Rock County health care providers have launched an HIV testing campaign to promote HIV testing services and remind the public of HIV testing for National HIV Testing Day, which was Monday, June 27, according to a Rock County Public Health Department news release.
Vivent Health is providing free testing at its facility in Beloit, 136 W. Grand Ave., Suite 290, through Friday. Vivent Health provides free HIV, hepatitis C and syphilis testing.
“Today with National HIV Testing Day, we were trying to highlight, to me, the private health hidden gems of our community, and we just want to highlight the good work that they’re doing,” said Falicia Martinez, public health nurse at the health department.
The health company welcomes walk-in appointments, but appointments are recommend and can be made by calling or texting 608-774-6202. Vivent Health offers free HIV self-testing kits and condoms that can be mailed to your home through its website, store.vienthealth.org.
Vivent also offers mobile services, as well. If an individual cannot physically go into the office, they can call and someone will come to them.
There are other opportunities for HIV testing in Rock County. Those places include HealthNet of Rock County, Beloit Area Community Health Center, Mercyhealth clinics and urgent care, the Beloit Health System, and SSM Health Dean Medical Group clinics. The health department encourages people to contact their medical providers for details on how to get tested.
Martinez said the health department is planning to do additional education on HIV and the importance of getting tested this coming month.
“We know that 165,000 people in the United States do not know they are living with HIV,” said Ian Hedges, chief executive officer of HealthNet of Rock County. “No matter what you know about HIV, it affects both urban and rural communities. Testing to know your status is important because it helps patients get on HIV medications that save their lives and prevent transmission.”
Hedges also said he would be tested Monday to show staff, volunteers and patients that testing should not be stigmatizing.
“Ian Hedges got tested and I went and got tested and there wasn’t any concerns, but we were just trying to highlight the importance of getting tested and knowing your status,” Martinez said. “We are going to use some testimonials from people and staff who have gotten tested to do some promoting and educating and highlighting our services.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people age 13 to 64 get tested at least once a year as part of routine health care. According to the CDC, those who are at higher risk of HIV are individuals with multiple sexual partners, who inject drugs, or men who have sex with men. It is recommended those individuals get tested more than once annually.
According to the news release, HIV testing is fast, easy and low-cost. Many tests require a finger prick, and results can be available within 30 minutes. Home testing is also an option and testing kits can be purchased at select pharmacies and online.
“We’re just trying to normalize the conversation,” Martinez said. The theme this year is HIV testing is self care. With the pandemic, mental health and self care and additional support are all things that are so important. We’re just trying to highlight that and normalize some of those conversations so it’s easier for people to have the conversation with their providers.”