Despite the availability of new treatments and preventive measures, a significant stigma remains around HIV, and many who may carry the disease are unaware of their status – and may be afraid to get tested.

That’s why June 27th is observed each year as National HIV Testing Day, an opportunity for individuals to take the free, fast, easy test for HIV and know their status. This year, The POWER (Protecting Ourselves With Every Resource) Project of Chase Brexton will host an HIV testing event on June 27th from 11 am. to 3 pm. at the Y Knot Lot (1904 North Charles Street, in Baltimore), including free food, giveaways, and a raffle drawing.

Krupa Mehta, manager of the POWER Project, discussed the ongoing need for HIV testing in Baltimore.

How prevalent is HIV testing in Baltimore – is it something that most people get tested for at some point, or not?

In 2016, the Maryland Department of Health estimated that there were more than 19,000 people living with HIV in the Baltimore metropolitan area, but only 16,271 had actually been diagnosed with HIV. This tells us that even though testing is prevalent in our community, there are still people living with HIV who are unaware of their status. There is still stigma associated with HIV and testing, which may prevent some people from getting tested. There is also the myth that only certain people can get HIV, which is not true. Anyone can get HIV and getting tested is the only way to know your status.

What is the test itself like – how long does it take, and what is involved?

There are several different types of tests. At Chase Brexton, we use the Determine and Oraquick tests. Determine tests a small amount of blood drawn from the finger and results are available in 15 minutes. Oraquick uses an oral swab of oral fluid and results are available in 20 minutes. We offer testing in a confidential and private space at all Chase Brexton centers. Anyone needing a test will meet with a certified counselor who will perform the test, answer questions and provide counseling.

What might you tell someone who is hesitant to get tested, or fearful of learning their status?

HIV testing is a part of comprehensive healthcare. Getting tested regularly – every six to 12 months, or more often if you are at higher risk – is the best way to protect yourself and your partner(s) and stay healthy. Our counselors are there to provide support and counseling in a non-judgmental way – we’ve heard it all! We will walk you through every step and answer any and all questions. Treatment of HIV has also come a long way; there are numerous treatment options and our knowledgeable staff are here to help guide our patients as they engage in care.

Where can an individual go to get tested, and what do they need to bring?

Free rapid testing is offered at all Chase Brexton locations. Testing is available to anyone in the community, and no documentation or ID is required.

For more info on HIV testing, visit Chasebrexton.org/POWER, or contact The POWER Project of Chase Brexton Health care online or by calling 410-837-2050 x8813. t

Chase Brexton’s LGBT Health Resource Center provides access to expert health information and resources that will enhance wellness and quality of life. For more info, it’s ResourceCenter.lgbt

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