Valley organizations offering free HIV testing

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- More than 1 million Americans have HIV, but one in five people don't realize they are infected. While big strides have been made when it comes to prevention, getting tested is at the top of the list. Wednesday marked the 19th National HIV Testing Day.

“HIV is not the death sentence that we once saw it being,” said Jon Martin, early intervention services manager at Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS.

The Valley nonprofit organization provides services to those living with the disease and it's even become one of the largest HIV testing programs in the state.
 
“HIV testing is conducted by HIV counselors who are also health educators,” Martin said. “And they do a pre- and post-counseling session. It takes 15 minutes to get your result and only takes a tiny drop of blood from your fingertip.”

A relatively painless test that Martin said everyone should get. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging everyone from ages 13 to 64 to be tested at least once. Those at high risk, once a year.
 
‘Were finding infections much sooner and we're able to intervene with treatment sooner and that allows people to stay healthy,” Martin said.

So to recognize National HIV Testing Day, the center teamed up with 1 Voice Community Center near Campbell and Seventh avenues on Wednesday to provide free HIV tests.

“If we can make HIV testing be as common and simple as a diabetes checks or blood pressure checks, then we're really going to see some improvements in the number of people that are finding out they're HIV positive,” Martin said. “When people know their status, then they know how to protect themselves and others.”
 
For more information visit www.swhiv.org.