Wednesday marks the 18th annual National HIV Testing Day and health officials are urging people to know their HIV status.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.2 million individuals in the United States are infected with HIV, yet more than one in five do not know they are positive.
The CDC recommends annual testing for people at higher risk of HIV infection. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from even more frequent testing -- perhaps every three to six months, the CDC said.
In Chicago's LGBT community there are a number of resources available for people to receive free HIV testing.
"We hosted a number of programs leading up to National HIV Testing Day to help ensure more people get tested and know their status," said Gregory Gross, Clinical Manager, HIV Testing and Prevention at Center on Halsted
. "Working together, we can better secure the health and well-being of Chicagoland's LGBTQ people – especially the 20% of Americans living with the HIV virus who do not yet know they are infected."
For National HIV Testing Day and every Wednesday, Center on Halsted
, 3656 N. Halsted, offers "Walk-in Wednesday" from noon-8 p.m. where they will offer free, rapid testing throughout this time for persons on a first come, first served basis without an appointment.
Other LGBT organizations offering free HIV testing include: Howard Brown Health Center
, 4025 N. Sheridan Road, with testing available Wednesday from 1-7 p.m.; Broadway Youth Center
, 3179 N. Broadway, providing free rapid HIV testing for clients 12-24 years of age from 1-8 p.m.; and Test Positive Aware Network
(TPAN), 5537 N. Broadway, with free HIV testing and counseling program from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. No appointment is necessary at any of these locations.
Health officials say early diagnosis is critical so people can start getting life-saving treatment.
"People can't get the care or prevention services they need if they don't know their HIV status," said Jim Pickett, Director of Prevention Advocacy and Gay Men's Health at AIDS Foundation of Chicago
. "Regular HIV testing is especially important for folks who are at higher risk - in the United States that means gay men of all colors should be getting tested for HIV at least twice a year."
There's no better time to start than National HIV Testing Day, though Pickett stresses, "If you are a sexually active gay man - single or in a relationship, your personal HIV testing day should come around a couple times a year. Not just a beautiful day in June."
The Chicago Department of Public Health also offers free, anonymous and confidential HIV testing at the following locations: Englewood Clinic, 641 W. 63rd; Roseland Neighborhood Health Center, 200 E. 115th; Lakeview Clinic, 2861 N. Clark; and Uptown Clinic, 845 W. Wilson.Walgreens participates in National HIV Testing Day
For the second year in a row, Walgreens, the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., is marking the day by teaming with Greater Than AIDS to offer free HIV testing.
Testing will be conducted June 27–29, 3–7 p.m., at 47 select Walgreens stores in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington, D.C. and West Palm Beach.
You can locate participating Walgreens stores here
.Search the CDC for additional testing sites
To find additional HIV testing sites near you, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up a web site
that is searchable by ZIP code.