National HIV Testing Day is annually observed on June 27th to encourage people of all ages to be tested for HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a retrovirus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells, reducing the body’s ability to fight off infections and disease. As of 2016, there were 633 people in Montana living with HIV. Of that, 541 people are in care, and of those, 520 have undetectable viral counts.
The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their life as part of routine health care. Those with higher risk factors should be tested more often. Gay and bisexual men, people with more than one sex partner, people with sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and persons who inject drugs are at a higher risk and should get tested at least once a year. Other reasons to test are unprotected sex, anonymous sex, multiple partners and needle sharing.
No effective cure exists for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Those infected with HIV can live healthy, happy lives with treatment called Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). When taken properly, the virus can drop to levels that are undetectable, which means it is untransmittable. Although the treatment must be taken on a daily basis, in most cases it’s as simple as one pill per day! Once you know you are HIV positive, it’s important to begin treatment immediately; delaying it will allow the virus to continue harming your immune system. If taken properly, ART can greatly reduce the risk of passing HIV on to others.
Those who test negative also benefit from knowing their status and can take steps to prevent HIV. These steps include: reducing the number of partners, consistently using condoms, and asking a health care provider about taking prophylactic medication (PrEP) for those who are at risk.
For HIV prevention information and to find a nearby Montana testing site, go to AIDS Outreach, or contact your local health department. Other resources are available at 1-800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to “KNOW IT” (566948) to find an HIV/STD test site near you.
Testing is also available through your medical provider. Health insurance usually covers the test, and some sites offer free testing. FDA-approved home testing kits are available for purchase at some pharmacies.
Local testing is available at:
AIDS Outreach (Rapid testing) 406.451.5718
Bridgercare (Rapid testing) 406.587.0681
ZoeCare (Blood test) 406.586.9444