National HIV Testing Day is Wednesday, and the Barton County Health Department would like everyone to know their HIV status.
“It’s one of those things people need to know,” said Karen Winkelman, BCHD nurse who oversees the AIDS/HIV reporting. She encourages everyone to get tested.
Barton County is in the northwest region of Kansas, where the biggest cluster of cases is in the 25- to 34-year-old white population.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment released the number of people presumed living with HIV/AIDS in the state for 2011, and Barton County tied for 11th out of 105 counties. The number of cases in Barton County is 22 which is higher than the immediate surrounding counties.
Barton County is in Region 7, which are the 31 counties in the northwest portion of the state. Region 7 has had 164 cumulative cases of HIV/AIDS. The highest ethnic group with 104 cumulative cases is white, non-Hispanics in this region.
HIV transmission occurs when fluids containing the HIV virus from an infected person enter the body of an uninfected person. HIV is primarily spread through anal, oral or vaginal sex via microscopic rips or tears in the linings of the exposed areas, through sharing needles for injectable drugs, steroids, tattooing or piercing, and multiple sexual partners. It is much easier to get HIV if you have a sexually transmitted disease because of open sores, according to the to the official U.S. Government HIV/AIDs website.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is a virus that damages the immune system. When HIV progresses to AIDS, the immune system becomes so damaged that opportunistic infections and cancer occurs. As early as two to four weeks after acquiring the virus, there are higher levels of the virus circulating in the blood, which means that people can more easily transmit the virus to others. HIV/AIDS is not curable but can be treated.
The BCHD does testing through KDHE for ages 13 and up provided they have the ability to give consent. “It is confidential and anonymous screening,” said Winkelman. “KDHE encourages confidential screening so we can get them into treatment earlier.
“It became frightening to look at the numbers (of HIV cases) in our young population,” Winkelman said.
The fee at BCHD is on a sliding scale based on income. The test is done on a walk-in basis with no appointment needed.
Results are given in person. At times, the district disease intervention specialist from KDHE will be present to start identifying resources immediately.
“Typically, HIV positive individuals go to Wichita for treatment, although there are some outlying clinics” said Winkelman. Dr. Donna Sweet in Wichita treats the patients.
Informing people of a positive HIV status is difficult for Winkelman. “It’s very hard emotionally because you know it’s going to have an impact on that person for the rest of their life,” she said.
“Of all my years of nursing, the most difficult thing is to give a positive result,” Winkelman said. She has been a nurse for 34 years.
More information can be found on HIV/AIDS at www.kdheks.gov.
An estimated 56,300 Americans are newly infected with HIV each year. There are approximately 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Also according to the CDC, one in five people doesn’t know they are infected.
Cases of HIV/AIDs by County: