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Guamanians urged to get tested for HIV

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It's a disease without a cure, and yet it affects over 35 million people worldwide. And while the number of HIV cases remains low in Guam, everyone in the community is encouraged to find out their status by getting tested on National HIV Test Day.

According to STD/HIV Program supervisor Bernie Provido Schumann, while the numbers remain low, cases of the human immuno deficiency virus in Guam spiked last year when compared to previous years. "A little over 250 cases have been confirmed for HIV since 1985," she told KUAM News. Although HIV has been considered low and stable in Guam, there were six new confirmed cases in 2014. "Those are just the reported number of cases, so we know there are some people that may be out there that do not know their status. We encourage you, please come to Public Health, get tested and know your status," she said.

"Anyone who is having unprotected sex, anyone sharing IV drug needles, or tattooing with dirty needles or using any dirty needles is at risk," Schumann said.

Saturday, June 27 is National HIV Test Day, and Schumann encourages all Guamanians to get tested, adding, "The test is basically a 20-minute test, it's a finger prick and after 20 minutes you get to know your results. It's free here at the STD/HIV Clinic in Central and Northern Public Health, and we do not charge, so they can walk in any time Monday through Friday, 8-12 or 1-5."

The test is free for those with or without insurance. In the case someone does test HIV positive, program coordinator Jessica Camacho says care services are available to help. She explained, "And so we really work very closely with that population and to make sure that they're healthy and they're on their medication and whatever we can do to try to assist them, and we also provide some support groups."

But HIV isn't the only issue affecting Guam. According to Schumann, sexually transmitted diseases are alarmingly prevalent on island. "Anyone with an STD is five times or more likely to acquire HIV if it's not treated," she stated, adding, "and you know with the Chlamydia rate here in Guam, we're sixth in the nation for Chlamydia. Please get a test for Chlamydia, get tested for HIV, and take better care of yourselves."

For more information on STD or HIV testing, you can contact the AIDS Hotline at 734-2437.

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