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Free HIV testing offered this week

June 24, 2015 If you've ever hired a prostitute, if you are using right now or have used intravenous

The Journal Gazette



Wednesday marks National HIV Testing Day. Here are some places where you can get tested and throughout the week. 

Wednesday: Walgreens at 110 E. Creighton Ave., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Pontiac Mall, 1108 E. Pontiac St., from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Free testing is provided at this Walgreens every Wednesday, according to the health department.)

Thursday: Pontiac Mall from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Renaissance YMCA, 2323 Bowser Ave., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m

Friday: Walk in Testing, 525 Oxford Street, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health Medical Annex, 4813 New Haven Ave. Call 260-449-7504 to schedule HIV testing; hours for testing are Monday through Friday from 8-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.. Same day walk-in available at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily. Testing fee to be discussed at time of appointment.

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If you've ever hired a prostitute, if you are using right now or have used intravenous drugs in the past, or even if you've ever had sex without a condom, the Fort Wayne - Allen County Department of Health has a message for you: 

If you haven't yet, get tested for HIV. 

And there's no better time than right now. 

As part of National HIV Testing Day, the health department and the Walgreens at 110 E. Creighton Ave. is offering rapid HIV testing that requires no appointment and, more importantly to many, is done without a needle. 

Instead, a swab from inside the mouth is taken and the test results can be given in 20 minutes. 

"It couldn't be easier," said Kathy Thornson, of the health department's HIV/STD Prevention Division. 

Testing at the Walgreens will be done from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and officials' urge for testing comes on the heels of the massive HIV outbreak that has plagued tiny Scott County in the southern part of the state for the better part of the year. 

Health officials believe the spread of HIV in Scott County - which typically sees five new HIV cases a year but had seen more than 170 this year - stemmed from the use of the painkiller Opana by intravenous drug users. 

Some of these users were also sex workers who hung around a truck stop in the county. 

"That's pretty profound," said Dr. Deborah McMahan, head of the local health department, about the numbers. "There's no reason to think that couldn't happen here. One or two people start practicing unsafe behaviors and soon you are dealing with the spread of disease." 

While there have not been widespread reports of Opana use in Allen County, local police and health officials have noticed a spike in heroin use here - and one deadly batch is even linked to three deaths last month. Injecting any drug using needles, if shared, can lead to an HIV infection. 

And that goes for anyone who is having unprotected sex, including those who may have been out of the dating game for awhile but all of a sudden find themselves back in due to whatever circumstances, McMahan said. 

"If you've had unprotected sex with anyone, you need to know your status in this day and age," she said. 

The Positive Resource Center, formally the AIDS Task Force, is also offering free testing at sites throughout the week, mainly the Pontiac Mall and the Renaissance YMCA. The local health department also offers testing always, every week of the year. 

Early detection of HIV will not only allow people to immediately know their status but also get them access to medications that will keep them healthy for a long life, health officials stressed. And these medications, unlike 20 years ago, do not carry with them side effects that kept so many from taking them for so long. 

Symptoms of HIV can also take a long time to show themselves. 

"Saying 'I'll wait til I develop symptoms and then I'll get checked is like a diabetic saying I'll wait until my leg falls off and then I'll get checked," McMahan said.

Currently, about 1.2 million people in the nation have HIV while Allen County sees about 20 new cases a year. 

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