This Thursday [June 27] is HIV Testing Day and the Department of Health is launching an annual campaign to encourage people to, “Take the Test, Take Control.”
The Communicable Disease Control Clinic, located at the Hamilton Health Centre on Victoria Street will offer free, confidential HIV testing from 8:30am to 3:30pm on Thursday.
“If you’re HIV-positive, it means that the virus is inside you — even though you may not feel sick,” explained Public Health Nurse, and organizer of the campaign, Ms Kim Ball.
“If you have HIV, getting medical care early and taking medicines regularly helps you live a longer, healthier life and also lowers the chances of passing HIV on to others.
“Testing yourself for HIV is important for your health, your relationships, your life and your future.”
The Department of Health has also encouraged pharmacies to make over-the-counter HIV screening kits available. These are safe and approved for persons 17 years and older and the test is done in the privacy of your own home. There is no blood involved, just a swiping of the gums, and results appear in 20 minutes.
“The Department of Health recommends that all adults be tested for HIV at least once as part of regular medical care. Others at greater risk should get tested once a year or more often,” a spokesperson said.
“It is recommended that persons are tested at least once a year if they engage in activities that can result in HIV infection. These include:
- Sex without condoms;
- Sex with multiple sex partners or with a partner with multiple sex partners;
- Sex with someone who is HIV positive or whose HIV status you don’t know;
- Sex between a man and another man;
- Using illegal injected drugs or steroids;
- Shared needles or syringes;
- Exchanging sex for money; or
- A diagnosis or treatment for hepatitis, tuberculosis or a sexually transmitted disease like syphilis.
“If you have been exposed to events that could result in HIV infection, you should test 3 months after the event,” continued the spokesperson.
Last year, the Minister of Health said that since 1982 more than 700 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Bermuda and today it is estimated that there are over 300 persons living with HIV/AIDS on the island.
National HIV Testing Day started in 1995, and is observed around the world.