Vermont Coalition Promotes Importance of Getting Tested for HIV

For Immediate Release: June 29, 2009
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health is working collaboratively with a number of AIDS service organizations and the Fletcher Allen Health Care Comprehensive Care Clinic to promote a new website (www.gettestedvermont.com) that reminds Vermonters who are at risk to consider getting tested for the HIV antibody.

The website was created by an Outreach Advisory Committee made up of representatives of community-based organizations, the Health Department and concerned Vermonters – some of whom are living with HIV or AIDS. Comprehensive Care Clinic staff and advisory committee members officially launched the site as part of National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

“Knowing your HIV status should be part of every sexually-active Vermonter’s health profile, and is a key way to prevent the spread of HIV,” said Michelle Force, HIV/AIDS prevention chief for the Health Department. “One out of five HIV-positive people are unaware of their infection, and quickly accessing medical care after a positive diagnosis can better manage their infection and delay the onset of AIDS, which is a life-threatening condition.”

Vermont has an HIV/AIDS case rate that is among the lowest in the nation. According to 2007 statistics compiled by the Health Department, there are 243 Vermonters living with an HIV diagnosis, and 241 who are diagnosed with AIDS.

Health Department Sexually Transmitted Disease data identified the Internet as a venue many people are using to meet sexual partners, which prompted the advisory committee to develop a Web-based tool to promote HIV testing. The “Get Tested Vermont” web page presents easy to understand information on why a person should get tested, what testing options are available, and where testing and other HIV prevention programs are located.

Vermont has more than 40 sites in 9 regions where confidential HIV tests are offered, including 14 locations in Chittenden County. Testing is available in Health Department district offices in Newport, St. Albans, and at the central office in downtown Burlington. A total of 3,965 tests were provided through the Health Department program in 2008.

Almost all testing sites in the Health Department testing network provide OraSure™ testing where a test sample of oral fluid is collected and sent to the Health Department laboratory for analysis. Test results are ready within one to two weeks.

Anyone interested in HIV antibody testing can ask their health care provider for a confidential test. People who would like free, anonymous HIV testing supported by the Health Department can call the Vermont AIDS Hotline, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at 1-800-882-2437 to speak with a counselor.

HIV is spread primarily through sex and syringe sharing. A mother with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding, although early intervention and medical care can greatly reduce the risk. Women who are considering pregnancy, or who are pregnant, are encouraged to ask their medical providers about HIV testing.

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