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North Texas health clinics participate in National HIV Testing Day

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter

Dallas, TX –

Host: Clinics throughout North Texas are offering free HIV tests as part of National HIV testing day. KERA's Catherine Cuellar got tested to help those considering it know what to expect.

Catherine Cuellar, KERA reporter: Last year the Centers for Disease Control urged doctors to include HIV testing blood tests during physicals and for all pregnant women. Although AIDS was initially associated with IV drug users and men who have sex with other men, HIV is spreading fastest among women and minorities. So for National HIV testing day I went to a UT Southwestern clinic to find out what has changed since I took health class. First, paperwork.

Receptionist: We're only doing confidential testing today, no anonymous, so you will have to use your real name.

Cuellar: What's the difference between confidential and anonymous testing?

Receptionist: With anonymous, you can use a name, but if you're a woman it has to be Mary and then it has to be a number. If you're a man, you have to use John, like Johne or John43.

Cuellar: And when you get the anonymous testing, how do you get the results back?

Receptionist: You have to come back in person. We do not give results over the phone, not even confidentially. No results are given over the phone. No results are mailed out to you. So you give us a call. Set up an appointment, and we'll give you results. Anonymous you don't get a copy at all, you're just going to be shown and told the results. Confidential, you get a copy of the results, but we will need a picture ID.

Cuellar: For accurate results, it's advised that patients wait three months after their last possible exposure before being tested. For patients at higher risk for infection, testing is recommended at least once a year. After taking five minutes to complete paperwork, a counselor reviews the risk factors.

Counselor: Catherine, [door slams] Come on back.

Cuellar: How does accuracy compare between blood tests and other types of tests?

Counselor: Well, blood test is very accurate. A rapid test which is an oral test, usually if those come back positive, blood is drawn then for verification. Same with a finger stick with a card. If it came back positive, they'd do another test with venipuncture and verify it is a positive test.

Cuellar: and what's the difference in the time of results for various HIV tests?

Counselor: Rapid testing, 20 minutes. That's the oral. Venipuncture is a week to two weeks.

Cuellar: And what's the advantage of getting tested like this as opposed to the over-the-counter tests you can buy at a drugstore?

Counselor: With actual experienced counselors, you're going to see, have you been at risk? Have you had unprotected sex? Anal sex. Unprotected anal sex. Have you been sharing needles with other people? Those are all ways of course. Have you had a blood transfusion? Been in a foreign country and had blood? Mother to child, mother to fetus.

Cuellar: She also offers advice to eliminate risk in the future, and counsels patients who test positive.

Cora: Somebody that goes into a store, they're not prepared for that test result. It comes back positive and they fall apart. So you really need someone for support, to answer questions.

Cuellar: I ask if my insurance will cover this test or if I need to pay in advance.

Counselor: You do not need to pay for this. This is a service the state provides. This is free for anyone that wants to come in.

Cuellar: I have blood drawn - the whole visit takes less than 15 minutes. And I'm told to come back in two weeks for results.

Counselor: If you can't make it - there's our phone number, and you can make an appointment to get results.

Cuellar: Are there people who get scared and don't come to get their results?

Counselor: Many people do not come to get their results and when it's confidential, we can call somebody and remind them we've got results, why don't you come in? If it's anonymous of course we can't ever find that person again.

Cuellar: Free anonymous tests are available year-round by appointment. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.

More on the web:
National HIV Testing Resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention