Albany agencies report high interest in free testing

ALBANY, NY (06/27/2012)(readMedia)-- Today, June 27th, is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) and across the county organizations dedicated to reducing the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS are working together to remind Americans of the need for sexually active people to get tested. NHTD was founded by The National Association of People with AIDS in 1995 and has continued to promote HIV testing for 18 years. Here in the New York Capital Region, five organizations started this past Monday to provide FREE HIV testing services over five days, at 39 locations, in four counties.

Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood's Albany center shares its location at 855 Central Avenue with Mildred Elley/Austin Beauty School. UHPP interns set up a table in the first floor hallway to pass out information about the free testings are available. According to UHPP Marketing Director, Katherine Bruno, "many, many students came to the table for information. We passed out lots of condoms and information about HIV and STD prevention, as well." By early afternoon, 28 people had been tested at the UHPP Albany center.The AIDS Council of Northeastern New York also reported steady walk-ins for testing.

All tests are "rapid" and offered either by oral swab or finger stick. All testing is confidential and many organizations are offering incentives to those who come in for testing. While appointments can be made, most testing is available on a walk-in, first come-first served basis. Rapid testing means test results are available within twenty minutes after the test is administered. Since most testing is being done on a walk-in basis, however, there may be added waiting time before a client is seen for the test. A complete list of local free testing locations and times is available at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/uhpp/free-hiv-testing-days-39586.htm or at http://hivtest.cdc.gov/press_files/default.aspx

Estimates of the number of people in the United States currently living with HIV vary between 1.1 and 1.2 million. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five people do not even know they are infected. As new medications are developed, it is possible for people living with AIDS to live longer, healthier lives-but only if they know they are infected and obtain medical assistance.

Local agencies collaborating for this year's Free HIV Testing Day campaign include AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, Albany County Department of Health, Columbia County Department of Health, Hudson Housing Authority, New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, Whitney M. Young, Jr, and Women's Health Project.

National Free HIV Testing Day is promoted nationally by the National Association for People with AIDS and the US Centers for Disease Control.

Youth Emphasis

Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood is putting a particular emphasis this year on reaching out to area youth about this event. In 2009, young persons ages 13 to 29 accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections in the US. HIV disproportionately affects young gay and bisexual men and young African Americans.

Just recently, the CDC issued the results of its 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which includes national data, as well as data from 43 states and 21 large urban school districts, on a variety of health behaviors, including teen sexual behavior.

The report included some good news: there have been significant improvements in sexual health since the survey began in 1999 including increases in condom use and dual use (use of both a birth control method and a condom). According to the survey, 47.4 percent of 9th to 12th graders have had sexual intercourse. And among 33.7 percent of currently sexually active students in U.S., 60 percent reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during last intercourse. But, of course this means that 40% were NOT using a method of protection. Additionally, the report highlighted as a key concern a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of teens that have ever been taught in school about AIDS or HIV. Finally, the report noted that a large proportion of young people are not concerned about becoming infected with HIV and that only 12% of teens surveyed had been tested for HIV/AIDS.

UHPP Senior Vice President for External Affairs, Rob Curry stated "access to both reproductive health services and comprehensive sex education are essential tools in the campaign to safeguard the health and future of your youth;. Our commitment to this work," Curry continued, "is driven by the knowledge that helping young people avoid pregnancy and disease early in life enables them to stay in school, pursue meaningful careers and benefit all of society."