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PUBLISHED: 5:38 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Medical clinics join forces, offering free HIV testing throughout Juneau
Juneau medical clinics are working together and offering a one-day opportunity for HIV testing. Throughout Juneau, free HIV testing will be available Wednesday, June 27 at the Alaskan Hotel with testing conducted by public health nurses and also at Juneau Public Health Center, Valley Medical, Juneau Urgent Care and SEARHC.

"As far as we know, Juneau really hasn't done anything like this before so the fact that we can pull so many clinics together and do testing is amazing," said Dolly England, case manager the Southeast office of Alaska AIDS Assistance Association, also known as Four A's.

She said her organization hopes to conduct at least 50 rapid tests the day of the testing drive. The rapid test gives results in about 20 minutes and is 99 percent accurate, England said. The United Way gave Four A's a grant for $3,000 to buy tests for the drive.

Free HIV testing Wednesday, June 27

• Alaskan Hotel: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

• Juneau Public Health Center: 11 a.m. - 3p.m.

• Valley Medical: 5-7 p.m.

• Juneau Urgent Care: 8 a.m.-11 a.m.

• SEARHC: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

"The really awesome thing about the rapid test is that you don't have to wait a two to three week period to see what your results are. With the grant we were able to provide the tests to clinics so they were able to participate," England said.

"Everyone is really excited to participate and excited we are able to mobilize the agencies we're working with to put on this event that will have a huge impact on this community."

England said it is estimated that 250 people in the state of Alaska are HIV positive and are unaware of it.

"It's important that anyone between the ages of 13 and 65 be tested at least once a year, and this is straight from the Surgeon General's mouth. It's a huge push going on right now for that," England said.

"I think that people here in Southeast don't think HIV affects them. They live in a village or they've been married for a long time but the thing is people travel and people are constantly coming into the community."

She said the transient nature of Juneau lends itself to a host of new people each year, which makes testing important.

"I heard on the radio this morning that there are 14,000 tourists coming in town today. How many STDs do you think those 14,000 tourists have? How many STDs do you think the crew members have?"

"People come in the summer time, and Juneau becomes a lot more interesting. People want to hook up and that's fine but you should also be protecting yourself, getting tested and knowing your status," England said.

"That kind of Southeast flow of transmission happens and people think they're immune to it," she said.

While the testing drive is focused on Juneau, England said testing at a low cost or for free is available at clinics in communities across Southeast Alaska.

With the rapid testing offered in Juneau for the day of the drive, England said she will be available to speak with people who test positive.

"If somebody does end up testing positive, they would be referred to me because we're the lead support service agency in the state for people living with HIV/AIDS. If someone were to test positive I would step in and help them with whatever they needed, whatever that next step is," she said.

"Just because someone tests positive doesn't mean they're going to need to start medication right away or they're going to feel sick. Most likely if we have somebody test positive, they're going to need to talk to somebody. They're going to need that support."

Once a rapid test results in a positive, a confirmatory test must be conducted, and results take about a week.

"There's still this limbo period of 'I might be positive; I might not be positive' so we'll still have to work with that person," England said.

Four A's began as a volunteer agency in 1985 and was incorporated in 1986, according to Chrissy Bell, director of development for the organization known as Fours A's.

Four A's serves 91 percent of the state of Alaska and client services include cases management, drug and alcohol counseling, transportation, psychiatric counseling, a food bank, payee representation and housing. An office in Juneau has served Southeast Alaska for four years.

England said she stresses how important it is to be tested to catch HIV in its early stages.

"It's important to ask for a test. That is your right and responsibility," England said.

To assist with the Southeast division of Four A's is AmeriCorps volunteer Lee Wagner, who will be helping with prevention, education and outreach.

"I'm just going to be looking for more outreach and different ways to get out in the community," Wagner said.

For information about Four A's, England may be reached by phone at 586-6089 or 888-660-2437 or by e-mail to dengland@alaskanaids.org.

The Southeast Alaska office is located at 419 Sixth St. on the third floor in Room 325 in Juneau.

For more information, go online to www.alaskanaids.org.


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