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The national debate over health insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions continues. No one is more interested than those with HIV/AIDS in determining how changes will affect their ability to receive treatment and medications.

Family Health Centers offers free HIV testing June 27

The issue is of paramount importance in The T&D Region, where the number of people living with HIV/AIDS is among the highest per capita in the state.

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More than a million people in the United States are living with HIV and nearly one out of seven is unaware of his or her status. That’s because too few people consider being tested for HIV/AIDS a matter of necessity for their health.

National HIV Testing Day is Thursday, with the goal of promoting HIV testing and early diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care.

Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner(s) healthy.

The Family Health Centers Inc. will offer free HIV testing in recognition of National HIV Testing Day. The confidential testing will be offered on Thursday at all FHC satellite locations from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and at the main site location from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 803-531-6900.

Emphasis must not end with the annual observance. While treatment is vital, the adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure applies.

Early detection through testing for HIV remains essential to successfully identifying and treating the disease and is critical to preventing new infections. Early diagnosis can link people to services that will help them stay healthy longer, benefit most from treatment, reduce hospital visits and help prevent transmission to others.

Great strides in prevention and treatment have been made, but HIV/AIDS is still a public health crisis, particularly in minority communities. Testing is the best way to reduce the number of people who will live – and die – from HIV/AIDS, and to prevent the spread.

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As America debates health care, leaders must not underestimate prevention. Proposals that could result in fewer HIV tests each year are shortsighted – and fiscally irresponsible.

Testing is far more cost-effective than subsidizing HIV treatment.

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