Sunday, December 1, 2013, will mark the 25th anniversary of World Aids Day. This year, an estimated 56,300 people will be infected with HIV in the United States. One in 5 of the more than one million people living with HIV in the United States are unaware of their infection. This year, in recognition of World AIDS Day, Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) encourages Cass County residents to get tested for HIV.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.
Since surveillance began in 1984, more than 600 cases have been reported to the North Dakota Department of Health with approximately 319 individuals currently living with HIV/AIDS in North Dakota. Thanks to better treatments, people with HIV are now living longer—and with a better quality of life—than ever before.
In the United States, HIV is most commonly spread through body fluids during unprotected sex, sharing needles, or other drug equipment. In addition, a mother can pass HIV to her baby during pregnancy, during labor, through breastfeeding, or by pre-chewing her baby’s food.
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You could have HIV and still feel healthy. Many doctors recommend HIV testing for all teens and adults between the ages of 13 and 64.
“People can get HIV in North Dakota, and that is why it is important to know your status. Getting tested for HIV is easy and usually takes less than 20 minutes and is completely confidential.” states Larry Anenson, FCPH protection and promotion director.
HIV antibody testing is available free of charge at Fargo Cass Public Health Clinic. The HIV antibody test detects the presence of antibodies to the HIV virus by using a simple blood test. This is not a test for AIDS. The test does not tell you if you have AIDS; it does show if you have been infected with the virus which can cause AIDS. Fargo Cass Public Health has conducted an average of 792 HIV tests per year since 2009. Anenson says that more people should take advantage of the free HIV antibody testing, “Knowing your status people are more likely to take steps to protect their health and that of their partners.”
For more information on HIV, as well as finding HIV testing sites, call 701.241.1383, or go to FargoCassPublicHealth.com.