DOTHAN, AL (WTVY) An initiative that began in 1995, is now more important than ever.
“Every year on June the 27th, this day is set aside for people to find out their HIV status,” said Neice Danzey, Health Educator Specialist for Dothan's Medical Advocacy and Outreach (MAO).
Tuesday, MAO held their annual Health and Wellness Fair at the Houston County Health Department, offering free HIV testing.
“Everyone needs to know their HIV status. It’s very important,” said Danzey.
Important because HIV cases are on the rise.
An average of 1,200 people in the five-county Wiregrass region are currently living with HIV. One of every 97 Alabamians will be diagnosed in their lifetime.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. It can lead to AIDS - the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced. If left untreated, it will lead to death.
“We also have to take steps to educate the public, so that we are not just dealing with the now, but planning for the future,” said Thomas Stephens, Media Relations Specialist for MAO.
HIV - and other diseases - don’t discriminate.
"HIV, Hep-C, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, there's no bias," said Stephens. "They will impact, infect, affect everyone regardless of what they look like, their age, their sex, their sexual orientation, or the geography that they live in."
It’s estimated that one in every eight people nationwide living with HIV don’t know they have it. MAO health professionals say knowledge is power and getting tested for HIV now can save your life.
“You stand a chance of seeing the cure with the rest of us and also helping to pave the way for more knowledge and more learning about quality care,” said Stephens.
Medical Advocacy and Outreach clinic in Dothan offers free HIV testing Monday thru Friday.
National HIV Testing Day was created in 1995. Its mission remains to educate people about HIV and to eliminate barriers to treatment and care.