Boone County offers free HIV testing, reports uptick in infections
COLUMBIA - A couple of Boone County organizations are offering free HIV tests in response to a national campaign and an increase in people infected.
Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services will host a free HIV screening
tomorrow to kick off National HIV Testing Day. HIV Health Educator Erika Holliday said having events like these help decrease the number of people who don't know they are HIV positive.
"The idea behind having rapid testing is we’re going to make it as easy and low cost as possible so people can come get a test, know their status and if it is positive, have the right resource to get them quickly connected to treatment," Holliday said.
She said they work with community partners like Spectrum Healthcare to make sure patients who are HIV positive can have access to medication and other resources.
Spectrum Healthcare offers free HIV testing and other sexually transmitted disease tests year round. Spectrum Healthcare Executive Director Cale Mitchell said giving people who live in Boone county year-round access to screenings is necessary, especially with an increase in known HIV cases in the area.
According to statistics for the year 2017, provided by Spectrum Healthcare, there are nearly 21,000 known HIV cases statewide. There are 742 known cases in mid-Missouri and nearly 250 in Boone County. Boone County has seen close to a 3% increase since 2016. Mitchell said while the increase may not seem large, "any increase is the wrong direction."
Mitchell said he expects to see an increase this year as well, especially in younger people.
"We are seeing a younger generation that wasn't connected to the (HIV/AIDS) epidemic in its beginning so, they view the disease differently. They are complacent about it," said Mitchell. "People have forgotten the way it was. The perception of HIV has changed because of medical advancements, which is good but I would certainly prefer to see a decrease in individuals affected."
Spectrum employee Adam Connors said people ages 16-25 are at an even higher risk of STDs because they are engaging in risky behavior.
"There are more young people under the age of 25 that have tested positive for HIV than compared the last 10 years combined," he said. "As we educate people moving forward, I think it’s really important for us to give out the message that your sexual health is important."
People can get free HIV testing at Living Canvas from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday with the Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services. Results will be provided within minutes, along with resources for more information on STI/STD medical support.