Free HIV home test kits are available
Baltimore, Md (KM) COVID-19 has been getting a lot of attention in the media these days, but the Maryland Department of Health is urging residents, especially those who are sexually active, to get tested for HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.
Dr. Peter DeMartino, the Director of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau, says it’s advisable for everyone to be tested for HIV. “And it used to targeted for gay men or transgender women since they have a higher risk of acquiring HIV,” he says. “But because of the pandemic, we’ve changed the program so it’s open to anyone who lives in Maryland, and it’s also available in Spanish as well.”
The kits are available from a confidential on line portal set up by the Virginia and Maryland Home HIV Testing Program
Dr DeMartino says it’s an oral swab test. “So there’s a little swab and you rub it over your gums. And there will be a little vial of fluid that you put the swab in,” he says. “It kind of woks like a home pregnancy kit. The color changes, and then you’ll know if you’re preliminarily HIV positive, or if you want to reconfirm your prevention methods.”
If you test positive for HIV, Dr. DeMartino says the kit contains information on local health providers in your area. If the results are negative, there’s information on how to safeguard yourself against HIV.
The Maryland Department of Health’s Center for HIV Surveillance , Epidemiology and Evaluation (CHSEE) says HIV testing in the state dropped by more than 31% in July, 2020 compared to the same time the previous. year. CHSEE also says overall lab testing from January through October, 2020 was 25% lower than expected based on a five-year average. And 29% fewer new cases were added to the HIV registry during that period.
There is no cure or vaccination against AIDS, but Dr. DeMartino says most persons who contract this disease can live normal lives. “You can manage very well, thankfully,” he said. :”People are living pretty much a normal life span.. But the most important thing is know your status. The sooner you know, the sooner you get into treatment, the healthier and the longer life you will have.”
By Kevin McManus