Check HIV status on June 27

Check HIV status on June 27 As many as 200,000 Americans have HIV infection and do not know it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unless they get medical care and treatment, these people are not only at increased risk for early death but also of passing the virus to others.

The South Dakota Department of Health encourages people to be tested and learn their HIV status in observance of National HIV Testing Day, June 27. The theme for the annual observance is "Take the Test, Take Control", in recognition of the importance of individuals taking control and responsibility for their health.

"The sooner people with HIV are diagnosed and start monitoring their health, the greater their chance of staying healthy," said LaJean Volmer, director for disease prevention for the South Dakota Department of Health. "HIV counseling and testing is important to help infected individuals stay healthy and to prevent new infections."

South Dakota reported 326 total HIV infections from 1995 through 1998. Of that total, 142 have been diagnosed with AIDS. In 1998, the state had an AIDS rate of 2.3 cases per 100,000 population, one of the lowest incidence rates in the nation.

"We do have a low incidence of HIV/AIDS but we can't be complacent. South Dakotans are being infected with HIV and diagnosed with AIDS," said Volmer. "And unfortunately, our rates of other sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in our adolescents and young adults, show too many people are practicing the risky behaviors that place them at risk for HIV infection and AIDS."

Those who want to find out their HIV status can receive free and confidential testing and counseling at one of the following Department of Health sites: Aberdeen � (605)626-2504, Mitchell � (605) 995-3196, Pierre � (605) 773-5348, Rapid City � (605) 394 – 2289, Sioux Falls � (605) 367 – 5365 and Watertown � (605) 882-5097. Additional information about HIV is also available from the Department of Health at 1-800-592-1861.

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