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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

June 27, 2012
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Montana recognizes National HIV Testing Day

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is inviting Montanans to join the rest of the nation in getting tested for HIV on June 27, 2012.  National HIV Testing Day is an annual campaign to encourage people of all ages to "Take the Test, Take Control."

Many people don't know they have HIV.  According to data compiled by the Montana Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, thirty-four percent of Montanans aged 18 - 64 stated they had ever been tested for HIV, apart from blood donations.  In the United States, nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and almost one in five don't know they are infected because they haven’t been tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, and those at increased risk should be tested at least annually. Testing is an essential first step to link persons with HIV infection to medical care and ongoing support to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors.  DPHHS and the CDC recommend that pregnant women test early in their pregnancy so steps can be taken that will prevent transmission of HIV to their babies.

“HIV lives and breathes in Montana’s tribal, frontier, rural and urban communities just as it does in communities outside of Montana,” said DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “HIV does not discriminate. HIV does not care if you’re male or female, white or American Indian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual. Understanding your risks and getting tested for HIV is the best mechanism Montanans have to determine their status and prevent its spread.”

Linkage to treatment once a person is diagnosed is vital to the health of infected Montanans. “Many of our HIV clients in Montana are simultaneously diagnosed with HIV and AIDS,” states Laurie Kops, supervisor of the DPHHS HIV/STD Section. “Because individuals choose not to get tested earlier, or don’t understand the behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection, we are seeing clients progressing to AIDS much faster than necessary because they are not receiving medical treatment at an early stage of the disease.  If a person is diagnosed, immediate medical treatment is imperative to keep the virus from replicating and causing more damage.”

Many locations throughout the state offer HIV testing.  Local public health agencies and community-based organizations provide free and confidential testing, and local private providers are also able to test individuals for HIV.  To find a place to get tested in your community, you can access the Montana DPHHS HIV Prevention website at http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/hivstd/hivtesting.shtml or the national HIV testing locator site at www.hivtest.org or text your zip code to KNOW IT (5-6-6-9-4-8).

Page last updated: 06/27/2012