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Local clinic honors World AIDS Day with free HIV tests


Monday, December 1, 2008
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The Family Tree Clinic in St. Paul’s Merriam Park neighborhood is offering free rapid HIV tests Mon. Dec. 1, in collaboration with World AIDS Day.

The screening test looks for the presence of HIV antibodies. If HIV antibodies are detected, a Western Blot test is used to confirm the results.

Barbara Peterson, a Family Tree clinician, said if an individual’s
tests come back positive, the clinic will help the individual line up
primary care, social workers, and insurance.

Last year, 325 new cases of HIV positive were
reported in Minnesota, a 30 percent increase from 2002 and an 81
percent jump from 1997. An estimated 2,500 Minnesotans are believed to
be living with HIV disease but don’t know they are infected, according to the Minnesota Department of Health’s 2007 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report.

Minnesota is considered a low risk region for HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, the 2008 U.N. report on AIDS says:

The global epidemic is stabilizing but at an unacceptably
high level. Globally, there were an estimated 33 million [30 million—36
million] people living with HIV in 2007. The annual number of new HIV infections declined from 3.0 million [2.6 million—3.5 million] in 2001 to 2.7 million [2.2 million—3.2 million] in 2007.

“Even though we’re in a low risk community, we want it to stay that
way,” says Peterson. Risk increases when there’s a history of
unprotected sex and sharing of intravenously injected drugs.

Maneesha
Jain, Family Tree’s hotline coordinator, knows some people resist
getting tested because they fear the result. What does she tell them?
“It’s peace of mind. If you’re wanting to live in reality and take
control of your life you can know and make decisions on that. If you
know you have it you can monitor your health and the chance of living a
high quality of life is much higher. People also need to think about
the potential impact on others.”

Jain said the clinic was able to offer free tests through the generosity of its testing kit supplier, which donated the kits.

The
free tests are being given from 1-8 p.m. On normal days, the tests are
still low cost. Appointments are taken at 651-645-0478.

Mshale Editor’s Note: The following are other clinics that offer free or low cost HIV/AIDS testing:

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