Walgreens store offering free HIV testing

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DENVER — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that in the U.S. more than 1 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  But 1 in 5 don’t know they are infected.

Now the organization is recommending that all teens and adults get tested for HIV.  Thursday is national HIV Testing Day.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that everyone aged 15 to 65 should be screened for HIV infection — teens younger than age 15 and adults older than 65 also should be screened if they are at increased risk due to immune deficiencies as well as all pregnant women.

The CDC says the test should be repeated once per year for those in designated at risk groups including  gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs, or people with multiple sex partners.

Screening for HIV requires a simple blood test, and results can be available within minutes.

Darrell Vigil, CEO of the Colorado AIDS Project, said the sooner patients learn they are HIV positive, the sooner they can begin treatment that can weaken the virus.

“Studies have shown that when people’s viral loads are undetectable they are far less likely to transmit HIV,” Vigil said.

Vigil said many people avoid getting tested because they are afraid of what the results will show, but education and increased awareness can change that.

“I know that when I was in my 20’s I was very afraid of getting tested,” Vigil said. “Today it’s more of a chronic disease that can be managed as long as you have access to meditation.”

Vigil emphasizes that HIV is a very serious illness and not to be taken lightly, therefore prevention is the key to stamping it out.

“If we could get everyone who is HIV positive on medication then technically we could eliminate HIV in a generation,” Vigil said.

The Colorado Aids Project is sponsoring free HIV testing at the Walgreens store on Colorado Boulevard and Alameda Avenue Thursday and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can see a find a list  of other sites and services at www.denvercap.org.