Jose A. Alvarez
County of San Diego Communications Office
Knowing your HIV status is essential to keep the virus from spreading.
To that end, the county Health and Human Services Agency and its many partners offered free, confidential HIV testing throughout the region. The service was part of National HIV Testing Week in San Diego County, which lasted through June 30.
The free testing supported “Getting to Zero,” an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections in the region. Starting July 1, the cost of HIV testing through the county is $40 and includes a physical exam and, if necessary, laboratory tests, treatments, vaccinations and any follow-up visits within 30 days.
“Every adult county resident should know their HIV status,” Supervisor Ron Roberts, who spearheaded ‘Getting to Zero’ in the county, said. “Those diagnosed with the disease must get treatment and stay in treatment so that we can put an end to HIV/AIDS.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of the new HIV infections each year and 60 percent of them are unaware they are infected.
In San Diego County, there are nearly 1,700 people who are HIV-positive and are not aware of their status, according to HHSA estimates.
“One in 11 people infected with HIV are not aware of it,” Patrick Loose, chief of Health and Human Services HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch, said. “The CDC recommends that all adults be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetimes, regardless of risk, and individuals who are at higher risk should be tested more regularly.”
People living with HIV who are linked to treatment are highly unlikely to transmit the virus to anyone else, so identifying everyone who is HIV-positive in San Diego County and linking them to care is a crucial component of “Getting to Zero.”
“These sobering statistics are a startling reminder that it’s important to know and disclose your HIV status,” Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer said. “The earlier we can detect HIV and link people to treatment, the better the health outcomes will be.”
HIV treatment is widely available in San Diego County. People living with HIV can have access to high quality medical services, including medication, even if they are uninsured and unable to pay.
Moreover, there are also important medication options for persons who are HIV-negative but at high risk for infection. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada, a drug that can be up to 99 percent effective at preventing new HIV infections in HIV-negative people. It is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, and it is also widely available in San Diego County, including for people who are uninsured.
Getting tested is easy to do. HIV testing is available without cost through health insurance, and the county of San Diego operates several HIV testing sites throughout the region. You can ask your doctor to perform the HIV test during a routine physical exam, or you can go to a county STD clinic and have it done there. In most circumstances, you will generally have the results in 20 minutes or less.
The free HIV testing was also part of Live Well San Diego, the county’s vision of healthy, safe and thriving residents and communities.
To learn more about HIV, AIDS, testing locations or how to access HIV care and treatment services, visit www.stdsandiego.org.