Free HIV testing Friday at Columbus Health Department

National HIV Testing Day is Friday and the Columbus Health Department is offering free HIV testing and counseling.

The confidential testing will be 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Health and Human Services Building at 2100 Comer Avenue.

The rapid test, which involves taking a swab of the mouth, takes only 20 minutes.

Health Services program supervisor Antonio Lawrence said, "No blood is taken unless the test comes back positive. Then, blood will be taken to confirm."

He said there are no requirements of people coming to be tested other than they do not eat or drink anything during the 15 minutes before being tested.

Lawrence said that during the testing, any concerns the individual has will be addressed.

Lawrence that if the test comes back positive, the person will be directed to where help can be found. If the test comes back negative, the person will taught about the things they can do to remain negative.

"We will be educating people," Lawrence said.

National HIV Testing Day, the theme of which is "Take the Test, Take Control," is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Association of People with AIDS and other health agencies.

A health department press release says that more than one million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and approximately one in five of those are unaware of their infection.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. There is no cure, but with proper medical care, the virus can be controlled.

HIV attacks the CD4 cells which normally defend the body against illness, eventually leading to a weakened immune system. Without medical treatment, HIV may destroy so many CD4 cells that the body can't fight infections and diseases anymore.

The CDC says HIV is spread through blood and genital fluids. It can't be spread through air or water, insect bites, tears, sweat, shaking hands, sharing dishes or kissing.

The health department does do testing at other times during the year. For more information, call 706-321-6412 or 706-321-6402.