Red Ribbon Project: Take 20 minutes and test yourself on World AIDS Day (column) | VailDaily.com

Red Ribbon Project: Take 20 minutes and test yourself on World AIDS Day (column)

Heather Hower
Valley Voices

World AIDS Day is on Dec. 1 every year. This year, Dec. 1 will mark the 30th annual World AIDS Day, a time for people from around the world to unite in the fight against HIV, to support those living with HIV and to honor those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Deciding to learn your HIV status goes hand-in-hand with this somber celebration.

Early diagnosis and intervention are the best way to treat the disease — and to show you care about yourself, your friends and your partner. The only way to jump-start treatment is by taking the first step: getting tested. Red Ribbon Project will host its biannual free HIV testing day on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Doctors on Call in Avon. This is a fast and confidential service.

There is definite good news when it comes to AIDS and HIV. Infections are decreasing in the United States (between 2010 and 2014, the annual number of new HIV infections in the United States fell by 10 percent, according to HIV.gov) an obvious reason to celebrate. However, there were still 38,500 new diagnoses in 2018, according to avert.org. Of those new cases, people can begin treatment quickly, extended their life expectancy for years and even decades.

Again, learning your status is the best way to stay healthy. Of the estimated 1.1 million people in the U.S. who have HIV, 15 percent did not know they were infected, according to the CDC. That means they can pass the virus onto others; they are not receiving treatment and their life expectancy can decrease.

World AIDS Day is a time to come together in knowledge, in support and in care. Knowledge is power, and in this case, can save lives.

Red Ribbon Project not only offers free, fast, confidential testing, it is at the forefront of prevention education locally with middle and high school students. Studies show that early prevention education and discussion is one of the reasons for the decrease in HIV infections in the United States, according to the CDC.

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Denise Kipp, executive director of Red Ribbon Project, adds that starting a dialog early is paramount to staying healthy. Talk to teenagers, en-courage friends — let them know you are getting tested. Eliminating stigma starts with the prick of a finger, a 15-minute wait and then the results.

Twenty minutes could save your life. Take the test. Be in the know — for free and confidential.

There is no appointment necessary Nov. 29, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Doctors on Call in Avon.

To learn more about World AIDS Day, visit http://aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/world-aids-day.

Contact Denise Kipp at the Red Ribbon Project for more information at 970-827-5900 or email at denise@redribbonproject.org.