(Houston, TX)– As part of National HIV Testing Day, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today called for routine HIV testing, and urged more pharmacies and other health care facilities to provide free or reduced-cost HIV testing to Texans.
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control announced a $1.2 million pilot program to offer free rapid HIV tests at pharmacies and in-store clinics in 24 cities and rural communities. The routine testing program in Houston’s emergency rooms found one in a hundred undiagnosed new HIV cases.
Texas ranks fourth in the nation for reported cases of AIDS, and there are pockets in Houston where infection rates rival that of African nations. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 65,000 Texans –one in every 390 — is living with HIV/AIDS.
“Too many Texans are living undiagnosed and untreated,” said Ellis. “According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five are unaware they are infected with HIV. The years between HIV infection and AIDS are a crucial time for treatment and prevention of transmission. It is time to make testing readily available and routine for all.”
Studies have shown that the sooner a person is made aware of their status, the sooner they will change their behavior, which will reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others. The CDC believes that the number of new cases of HIV each year could be decreased by up to 30 percent with routine screening in all heath care settings.
Retail and community clinics and pharmacies now offer free blood pressure and glucose tests in an effort to promote health. Making free HIV tests also available to the public in these everyday settings will dramatically increase the number of Texas getting tested, reducing the chances of spreading HIV.
Thanks to legislation passed by Senator Ellis, Texas already requires HIV testing for pregnant mothers and inmates being released from prison. In 2011, Ellis introduced legislation that would have implemented the 2006 CDC recommendations to increase access to HIV testing by incorporating it into routine medical care and by removing legal and reimbursement barriers to testing.
“HIV testing should be as routine as getting a flu shot,” said Ellis. “Even today, there is unfortunately still a stigma attached to HIV,” said Ellis. “Most physicians will only test you if they know enough about your life to assess your risk. We must pass legislation that makes HIV testing a benefit all people can receive.”
In honor of National HIV testing Day, the City of Houston is holding its annual HIP HOP for HIV event which will offer free HIV tests June 25th – Aug. 2nd. For more information visit. http://www.hiphopforhiv.com/. Legacy Community Health is also partnering with Walgreens to provide free HIV tests at three locations throughout the City starting June 27th- 29th. For testing locations and hours visit. http://eventsatlegacy.blogspot.com/2012/06/free-hiv-testing-june-27-29-2012.html. To find more testing locations visit: http://www.hivtest.org/