Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012
December 1 is World AIDS Day
The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center is now offering free testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. This service is offered on Friday afternoons on a walk-in basis, and no appointments or insurance are necessary.
“For a small state, HIV continues to have quite an impact, and now we’re seeing a rise in new cases of both HIV and STDs among certain groups of patients, which is concerning,” said Philip A. Chan, MD, an HIV/AIDS specialist at The Miriam Hospital. “HIV and STD testing is a critical step in preventing the spread of these diseases, and we encourage all Rhode Island residents to take advantage of this free and confidential service so they can learn their status.”
HIV testing at The Miriam Hospital is conducted via rapid test, which can provide results within 20 minutes. On-site confidential HIV counseling, risk reduction education and referrals are also available. In addition, syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia and hepatitis C testing are also offered free of charge.
More than 3,000 Rhode Islanders are infected with HIV/AIDS, and approximately 100 individuals contract the disease here each year. The vast majority of all HIV/AIDS cases in the state are among people over the age of 30. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and nearly one in five of those people are unaware of their infection.
Despite increases in the total number of people in the U.S. living with HIV infection in recent years (due to better testing and treatment options), the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.
“We’ve made significant progress when it comes to the treatment and management of HIV and, in fact, it can now be treated in a single pill in many people,” said Timothy P. Flanigan, MD, an HIV/AIDS specialist at The Miriam Hospital. “However, patients can still experience serious complications of this disease, especially when HIV is diagnosed late. Knowing your status and getting testing at least once a year, particularly if you have multiple sexual partners, is critical.”
Flanigan added that HIV continues to affect gay and bisexual men in Rhode Island, while syphilis is causing many new infections among the same population.
“Just like with HIV, it is important to know if you're infected with syphilis and be tested regularly,” he said. “There can be serious long-term effects of untreated syphilis.”
The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center is the largest human HIV and STD clinic in the state, providing comprehensive care to more than 1,500 HIV-positive patients by a team of physicians, nurses, social workers and case managers. The multidisciplinary practice involves clinical care as well a strong research component, which allows patients to take advantage of new treatments not yet available to the general public.
Free HIV/STD testing services are available on Fridays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center, located at 1125 North Main Street in Providence. For more information, please call 401-793-4715.
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