Do you know your HIV status? You could have HIV and not know it. The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center, along with a number of local organizations, is launching the "Step Up, Get Tested" campaign to increase efforts aimed at reducing the number of new HIV infections each year and also reduce the number of undiagnosed individuals in observance of National HIV Testing Day on Wednesday, June 27.
On June 27, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., anyone, 13 years of age or older, can stop by the Lake County Health Department's Belvidere Medical Building, 2400 Belvidere Road in Waukegan to receive a free rapid HIV test that is done using a simple oral swab. Free hepatitis C screenings using the finger stick technology recently approved by the FDA will also be available. Results for either or both tests are available within 20 minutes.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that every person should be tested for HIV at least once so they know their HIV status," said Brian Bongner, coordinator for the Sexually Transmitted Infection program for the Health Department. "Approximately 25 percent of people living with HIV do not know their status and that same group of people accounts for nearly 65 percent of new HIV infections each year. HIV is preventable if individuals take the appropriate steps to protect themselves. It is a manageable disease if it is detected early in one's life."
Along with rapid testing, information about other health and environmental services provided by the Health Department will be available along with free food and a children's play area with large inflatable slides and a bubble bouncer. Community partners participating in the event include Catholic Charities of Lake County, Alexian Brothers' The Harbor AIDS ministry, and NICASA, a substance abuse/behavioral health organization.
Since 2010, more than 13,400 individuals have been tested for HIV through the Health Department's Sexually Transmitted Infection program and clinics. The program has identified multiple individuals who were unaware of their HIV status who are now in medical care for the management of their HIV disease.
The Lake County Health Department is one of many organizations across the Chicago area participating in the "Step Up, Get Tested" campaign to promote HIV testing throughout June. Other participants include the city of Chicago, the Cook County Health & Hospitals System and many other AIDS service organizations. For more information on the campaign, visit: http://www.cookcountyhhs.org/health-beat/launch-step-up-tested-boost-hiv-testing/. For more information about services offered through the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center's STI Program, contact the STI Program directly at: (847) 377-8450.