Health department, Grand Rapids Red Project to give free HIV testing

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In honor of National HIV Testing Day on Sunday, the Kent County Health Department and the Grand Rapids Red Project are holding a free HIV testing and education event from 2-6 p.m. Thursday.

The event will take place in the parking lot across the street from the Kent County Sheldon Complex, 121 Franklin St. SE, Grand Rapids.

Certified test counselors will be on-site to provide testing, answer questions and connect residents with additional services. There also will be music, food and free gifts.

HIV self-testing also is an option. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website to find out how to order a free HIV testing kit.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the KCHD recommend everyone know their HIV status,” said April Hight, KCHD public health program supervisor. “This knowledge is essential for getting helpful therapy and for protecting others from the virus.”

More than 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and 1 in 8 people are infected with HIV without realizing it, according to the CDC. Nearly 40 people are diagnosed with HIV in Kent County every year. The only way for a person to know their status is to get tested.

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the cells that make up the body’s immune system. HIV can make it difficult for an infected individual to fight off diseases and, if left untreated, can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which can be fatal.

Individuals who are at risk for HIV infection can take PrEP, a daily pill that is 99% effective at reducing the risk for HIV infection. PrEP is available at the KCHD Personal Health Services Clinic. For more information about PrEP or if you would like to be tested, call (616) 632-7171.

More Information on HIV and AIDS can be found here.

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