By Mary Wade Burnside
That’s one reason why Wednesday, Dec. 1, will be a convenient time to get an HIV test at Monongalia County Health Department at the Access for All Clinic.
Participants will be offered the chance to get a rapid HIV test. A quick finger stick and 30 minutes later, the individual will know the results.
“If someone is borderline or positive, that is followed up with a blood test,” said Chantry Michael, RN, of MCHD Clinical Services.
And if that individual would like to talk to someone about treatment or to get help anonymously contacting partners, a West Virginia Bureau for Public Health disease investigation specialist will be on hand to help.
In addition to HIV, individuals can also get screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea, via a urine sample, and syphilis and hepatitis B and hepatitis C, which requires a blood draw. Individuals can also choose to just have a regular HIV test as well.
“If someone is high-risk, we’ll do the hepatitis B test,” Michael said. “Most times, the full panel is everything but hepatitis B.”
This seemed like a good year to commemorate World AIDS Day with a large clinic. After all, MCHD Clinical Services has been reopened for more than a year now since the pandemic began, and while the world has been focusing on COVID, we need to remember to test and treat for other illnesses as well.
Also, our public health nurses have been working hard to reduce the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and also recently underwent Safe Zone training through the West Virginia University LGBTQ+ Center to learn ways to care for patients from that community more effectively and empathetically.
“Anyone who calls and schedules an appointment, we always try to make them feel comfortable,” Michael said. “We’re here for them with no judgment. It doesn’t matter what brought you here. We want to do what’s best for our patients.”
Also, STI rates have been on the rise, even syphilis, once considered to be a disease of the past. Especially when caught early, syphilis can be easily cured with antibiotics, which is also the treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
We’ll also have other incentives to draw participants, including Kroger and Walmart gift cards provided by the WVU Medicine Positive Health Clinic, which is also supplying the rapid result HIV tests.
Also, in addition to appointments, which can be made by calling MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119, walk-ins will also be welcome during the event, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 1.
The Access for All Clinic also helps to illustrate that, just like going to the dentist or your primary provider, STI screenings should be part of your regular health care routine.
Conceived by the World Health Organization (WHO), the first World AIDS Day was held on Dec. 1, 1988, in the midst of the pandemic that emerged earlier in the decade.
The idea was to highlight human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which, if left untreated, usually led to AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and also death.
Treatments for the virus have vastly improved the outlook for individuals with HIV since then, said Mark Liptrap, MCHD’s social worker and counselor.
“The advancements in HIV research have been remarkable and treatments are very effective,” Liptrap added. “Individuals who test positive for HIV these days and begin treatment early can have a very normal and healthy life.”
And knowledge is power, Liptrap noted.
So call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment or the Access for All Clinic, or even just walk on in to be tested.