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4:00 AM Tue, Sept. 25th

Yavapai County Health Services HIV testing: Do your best - get a test

Health educators see World AIDS Awareness Day as an opportunity to tell people about the advantages of knowing their HIV status. Treatments today enable people to live productive lives and keep the disease from progressing as quickly as it would without treatment. People who know they have HIV can also protect their sex or drug-use partners from becoming infected.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. AIDS is short for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. As one of the more destructive viruses, HIV quietly goes to work breaking down the body's immune system defenses. This allows for opportunistic infections and/or cancers to start affecting a person's health and, if left untreated, to cause premature death.

HIV can develop in people who have unprotected sex or share needles or syringes with someone infected with HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) find that the risk for HIV infection through the transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low due to screening of donated blood.

"Half of the new cases of HIV are spread by people who don't know their status," says HIV Prevention Specialist Tim Rogers. "There are probably 200-250 Yavapai County residents who have HIV and don't know it."

There are roughly 175 known cases of people living with HIV in Yavapai County. People don't get HIV by shaking hands, hugging or casual kisses. Residents of any age who engage in unprotected sex put themselves at risk for sexually transmitted diseases as well as an HIV infection.

Results from the basic HIV rapid test are available in about 20 minutes. A person may ask for either a confidential or an anonymous test. HIV counseling is available both for those who test positive and for those whose tests are negative and want to make sure they stay that way. Persons at high risk for HIV infection should get tested for HIV at least every year.

The HIV rapid test reacts to antibodies the body makes to fight the HIV virus. The basic rapid test will detect HIV infection in the body that occurred long ago or at least six weeks before the test. Health care professionals may recommend other tests to detect more recent infections or to confirm the results of the basic test.

The local trends reflect national trends in that females now account for about 30 percent of the cases and unprotected heterosexual sex is their most common risk factor.

Northland Cares (www.northlandcares.org) provides free HIV testing to residents of Yavapai County. For testing information, call 928-308-8886.

Yavapai County Community Health Services offers the basic HIV test by appointment for $35; call 583-1000 or 639-8139.

Prescription drug

discount cards

A growing number of people, including about 700 people in October, are using the free Yavapai County Discount Card when they fill prescriptions at local

pharmacies.

Yavapai County residents can save an average of 20 percent off prescription medications anytime insurance does not cover their prescriptions. How? Present the Yavapai County Discount Card to participating pharmacies at time of purchase. The cardholder must be a Yavapai County resident.

The Yavapai County Discount Cards are available at about 25 participating pharmacies located in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Cottonwood and Sedona, and through several public libraries, any Yavapai County Community Health Services location, and other places listed online at www.co.yavapai.az.us.

The Yavapai County Discount Card is available in partnership with the National Association of Counties. A nationwide network of more than 57,000 participating retail pharmacies will also honor the card. Participating pharmacies can accept the card to discount the cost of certain pet medications.

Caremark Rx, a pharmaceutical services company, administers the program and can answer cardholder questions on their toll-free line, 1-877-321-2652.