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Testing Emphasized as World AIDS Day Observed

GRAPHIC: On World AIDS Day, medical professionals urge testing for most people. CREDIT: Health Services Center (Alabama).
GRAPHIC: On World AIDS Day, medical professionals urge testing for most people. CREDIT: Health Services Center (Alabama).
November 30, 2012

PHOENIX – Tomorrow (Saturday) is World AIDS Day and events are planned across Arizona to raise awareness of the disease and to celebrate successes in fighting the virus.

Dr. Rhianna Meadows, staff physician with Planned Parenthood Arizona, says most people should consider HIV/AIDS testing a regular part of health care.

"People who are in monogamous relationships and have been for a long time don't necessarily need to be tested annually, but certainly adolescents, young adults and people who are having multiple sexual partners should be tested every year."

Meadows says high risk groups also include men who have sex with men, people who have unprotected sex, and people who share needles. There are an estimated 20,000 cases of HIV and AIDS in Arizona, and 4,000 of those don't know they're infected and may be spreading the disease.

Carol Poore, president of the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS in Phoenix, says it's not enough just to be tested. If you test positive, you must get yourself into treatment and onto medication to reduce the amount of HIV in your blood stream to undetectable levels.

"That means a person will likely not spread the disease. But a person who has a high viral load with HIV and AIDS is a person that is out there spreading the disease."

There is good news. Where contracting HIV/AIDS was once considered a death sentence, Poore says a lot of progress has been made. Instead of 10 pills a day, people may take only one or two. And survival for 20 or 30 years is no longer unusual. There's even talk among scientists now of an eventual cure.

"For the first time ever, research scientists are talking about a vaccine that would be possible within the next 10 years. So the research has come a long way for the cure of HIV/AIDS."

Until a cure happens, the Southwest Center is offering free, confidential HIV testing at its location on East McDowell Road in Phoenix.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ