Health department offers free HIV/AIDS test

Jacie Schmidt

More than 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV. One in 8 of them don’t know it. Back in 2014, almost 10,000 people ages 13 to 24 were diagnosed with HIV, and 81 percent of those were ages 20 to 24. 

HIV, also called, human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the immune system. The HIV virus bonds to the body’s white blood cells, destroying them. The virus continues to reproduce and people become ill, according to Lynnsey McGarrh, Disease Intervention Outreach Specialist of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

“If not treated, if somebody doesn’t know they have it, they haven’t been tested, or they know they have it and are not taking their medication then the virus, HIV, will progressively get worse,” McGarrh said. 

Many people fear getting tested considering the negative stigma surrounding HIV. This fact can be inherently true especially among college students and young adults. Getting tested can mean simple piece of mind, or getting proper treatment if you do have the virus.

There are easy, instant and anonymous ways to get tested at the Health Department clinic at 650 Newtown Pike for anyone interested. The test is a quick cheek swab, and a person can get results within 15 minutes. 

“We have walk-in hours Mondays 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. at our clinic and Fridays 8:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. It’s free, anonymous walk-in testing,” McGarrh said.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department will host an event on Monday, April 10 for National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day and will provide free testing and light refreshments from 10 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the UK University Health Services building in room 412. 

“We try to do something for most of the awareness days,” McGarrh said. 

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, and September 27 is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. World AIDS Day is December 1. 

“We’re always having a few bigger testing events throughout the year, at least every few months,” McGarrh said.