With a simple prick of the finger, residents in Columbus found out Thursday if they were HIV positive.
Free HIV tests were given at the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road in observation of National HIV Testing Day. The event was coordinated by the Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation.
By 11:30 a.m., there were about 18 people tested. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson was number 19. Following the test, she made a public statement, urging local residents to the same.
“Today we’re asking all citizens to update their status, and by that we mean come out and get tested for AIDS,” the mayor said. “People need to understand that this is a disease that affects communities, affects families, and affects all people. But knowledge is power and if you know your health condition, as with any other health condition, there is treatment, and effective treatment. We’ve come a long way, so don’t let your ignorance put your life in danger.”
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Jeremy Hobbs, founder and president of the Better Way Foundation, said there are 1,684 known cases of HIV infection in Columbus, and every year the numbers increase. He said the statistics jump 20 percent when people who don’t know they have the virus are included. Those unaware of their status are responsible for about 70 percent of infections, Hobbs said.
“The main thing is once you have your status information then you can get the medicines and the help you need,” Hobbs said. “The CDC recommends that every person, every race, get tested at least every year. Take care of that and be proactive. That way you won’t spread the virus.”