June 27, 2005
Today was "National Free HIV Testing" day, and several clinics around the area administered the free test. The Charlottesville Newsplex spoke to one man living with HIV.
"I had fallen very ill and ended up in a coma, I was in the hospital for three weeks," said 'Jon,' an HIV patient.
That's how 'Jon' who wishes not to be identified, found out he had HIV, and because doctors detected the virus just one month after he contracted it from a partner, his treatment began immediately. Now, three years later, he's healthier than ever, but that's not the case for people who wait to get tested.
"They might not be taking the same drug regimen, they might be taking a handful of pills compared to my two," he said.
Studies show in the United States alone, over one million people have contracted HIV or AIDS, and roughly only about one third of those people know they have it. It's all the more reason why getting an AIDS test is so important.
"The earlier they can start treatment, the better the outcomes are for people and the more abilitythat they have to really control the disease's progression," said Kathy Baker, Executive Director of the AIDS/HIV Services Group.
Baker believes many people avoid getting tested because of the social stigma attached with the disease. 'Jon' knows all about it.
"They're a little stand-offish in the beginning and then they start to ask questions, but I'm usually the first person to tell them to please ask any questions you have," he explained.
By answering those questions, 'Jon' is able to educate people unfamiliar with the disease, and maybe save others from contracting what he lives with daily.
He said, "I'm here to worry about those other people, to make sure other people don't become infected, to make sure those that are infected are taking care of themselves."
Virginia ranks number 12 in terms of new AIDS patients each year. The number of those infected in Charlottesville has gone down recently, but it is still considered an area of concern.