National HIV Testing Day: Take the Test, Take Control
Monday is National HIV Testing Day and the AIDS Services Group of Charlottesville took part by giving free HIV tests. Nationwide, millions of people are infected with HIV and one in five don't even know it.
The group says knowing your status is the first step to living a healthy life. An HIV test just takes a few minutes, a quick swab inside your mouth. Within 20 minutes the results are available.
Getting tested on a regular basis is necessary, which is why so many people took advantage of it on Monday. Joshua Pritchett has been to prison three times. He was tested while behind bars, but is getting re-tested Monday to be on the safe side.
"HIV can lay dormant in your system for years and years and years. So it's always good every three to six months to get tested," said Pritchett.
He says he's not ashamed to get tested and he hopes others follow his example.
"Maybe hoping that someone else would see me from the street, and they can come in and get tested and save a life," Pritchett explained.
HIV is preventable, and the best form of prevention is getting tested.
Chair of the AIDS/HIV Services Group Board of Directors Cynthia Neff explained, "Just like you have your blood pressure tested, just like you have your cholesterol tested, you should get a regular HIV test."
Neff says there's a stigma about HIV and AIDS, people still do not like to talk about it.
"Many people think that AIDS is over, and it's just not," she said.
Peter DeMartino does like to talk about it. He says a positive diagnosis is not a death sentence anymore.
He stated, "I have been HIV positive for 11 years now, and doing really well."
DeMartino says the motto of the National Testing Day in Charlottesville is, take the test, take control.
"The sooner you know the sooner you can do something about it. It's just like any other disease," he added.
"If you do get a positive result there's folks here who can help you and get the care and support," explained Neff.
Joshua Pritchett's results came back negative, but he says he'll continue to get tested.
If you are HIV positive, DeMartino says developing a care plan is critical. He started one right after his diagnosis, which is why he's living such a normal, healthy life.