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CAMC to give out free HIV testing kits

By Candace Nelson

  • At-home screening

    gives convenience, privacy

    By CANDACE NELSON

    DAILY MAIL STAFF

    Charleston Area Medical Center's Ryan White Program will distribute free HIV in-home testing kits to the public as part of National HIV Testing Day Thursday.

    The test requires a mouth swab that produces results within 20 minutes, and users can perform the tests themselves. Test kits will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the fourth-floor outpatient clinic at CAMC's Memorial Hospital at 3200 MacCorkle Ave. S.E.

    "Most people get tested through the local health departments and then get referred to us," said Christine Teague, the program director of the CAMC Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

    "We've heard through patients that it's not always the most convenient process because they may only do it certain days of the week and certain times. For some people, when they decide to get tested, they need access to the testing right then. That was one of the major factors in making the decision to give away these kits."

    Following Thursday's kick-off, the free kits will be available at the outpatient clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

    "The big thing is just that in general people aren't getting tested, period. One in five in this country don't know they have HIV - probably because of the stigma and misperception about access to health care or treatment opportunities," Teague said.

    "People don't do it or think they're not at risk. People don't get tested or get tested way far along in the disease process when it's harder to get things under control."

    The OraQuick test has been around for several years and has been available for over-the-counter purchase since October. Teague said confirmation is required if the screening test is positive.

    But if it is positive, its accuracy is in the 95th percentile.

    The company recommends that people wait three months after an exposure for testing, since it is an antibody screening and the body produces antibodies four to six weeks after exposure.

    "People are so complacent about HIV; it's just as much of a problem as 20 years ago," Teague said. "People don't just die because we have effective treatment. Half of those people don't access that treatment, but it can prevent cancer complications and a lot of other things people don't associate with HIV.

    "And we don't want a cost to prohibit that. If you go to Kroger, it'll cost $38 to $50 per test. That cost is prohibitive."

    Teague said to curb the problem, the federal government recommended six years ago that people between ages 13 and 65 be tested. She said laws in West Virginia have been changed to make testing easier. Teague said nearly 2,000 people in West Virginia are living with HIV/AIDS.

    CAMC's program began in 2001 after it received the state's first Ryan White grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    The grant supports early intervention services to those infected with HIV. CAMC uses its grant for outpatient care for people in 19 southern West Virginia counties. More than 300 are currently enrolled in the program.

    The program provides primary care for adults at the specialty outpatient clinics at CAMC Memorial Hospital. Children are treated at CAMC Women and Children's Hospital.

    The federal Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act was named after an Indiana teenager whose struggle with HIV/AIDS and AIDS-related discrimination gained nationwide attention. White died in 1990 at the age of 18.

    For more information on the program, call 1-(877)-565-4423.

    Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nelson@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/Candace07.

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