RiverStone Health, in partnership with the Yellowstone AIDS Project, is providing an opportunity for everyone to Take the Test, Take Control through free rapid HIV testing from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at South Park, Sixth Avenue South and South 30th Street and 3-6 p.m. at North Park, 1950 Eighth Ave. N. in Billings, on Wednesday, June 27. In addition to free rapid HIV testing, free rapid Hepatitis C testing will be offered in the RiverStone Health trailer.
There are more than 400 people living with HIV in Montana; 15 of them newly diagnosed since the beginning of the year. Six of these individuals were diagnosed in Yellowstone County with Eastern Montana averaging about 12 new cases of HIV/AIDS each year. The lifetime healthcare cost of infection is estimated at $360,000 for each person living with HIV. Because of nationwide prevention and testing activities, it is estimated that more than $125 billion in direct health care costs have been saved over the course of 15 years (1991-2006).
“Alarmingly, Yellowstone County is trending upward in newly diagnosed HIV cases while other counties in the state are showing a decline in diagnosed cases of HIV. National HIV Testing Day gives us the opportunity to remind people about the importance of testing,” said Jace Dyckman, prevention health specialist at RiverStone Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV and one in five people don’t realize they are infected. HIV testing and counseling enables people with HIV to take steps to protect their health and that of their partners, in addition to providing people who test negative with the information they need to stay uninfected. With advancements in medications and treatments, those infected with HIV can live long, productive lives. The key is taking that first step and getting tested because early treatment is more effective. Early detection also allows steps to be taken to prevent transmitting the virus.