The House with the Red Door will test people on Friday and Saturday at the Summit Ridge Center |

The House with the Red Door will test people on Friday and Saturday at the Summit Ridge Center

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE ” The House with the Red Door in Breckenridge will offer free HIV testing Friday and Saturday in honor of National HIV Testing Day.

Testing will take place from 3-7 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The House with the Red Door is located at the Summit Ridge Center at 11072 Highway 9, Suite 202 in Breckenridge.

Testing is being held at the House with the Red Door ” called “The Door” for short ” because it is generally seen as a safe haven.

“It seemed to be the most logical place,” said founding director Ron Griffin. “Our identity in the community is known as a safe place. Once they’re in the door, it’s a safe environment.”

Griffin noted that, unlike a medical facility, Western Colorado Aids Project (WestCAP) counselors will be available to discuss test results with people. Test results will be available in 30 minutes.

“It’s one thing to go and take a test,” Griffin said. “But you can imagine all the energy that accompanies this test, especially if it comes back positive. The counseling component is as important as the testing.”

HIV, the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS compromises the immune system, allowing opportunistic viruses or bacteria to attack the body. The condition is fatal, although recent treatments have enabled some to manage it for years.

Summit County, along with the rest of the nation, is seeing an increase in the HIV infection rate, mostly among younger people, some of whom are using crystal methamphetamine. That drug makes users feel invincible, which often results in them making poor decisions. Additionally, because HIV is becoming increasingly more manageable, people are taking more risks.

There also has been an increase in the number of HIV cases among women over the age of 50 who feel they don’t have to practice safe sex or who don’t have the safe sex negotiation skills younger people do.

According to Michelle Wilson-Ball with the county nursing department, Summit County has the highest HIV infection rate outside of the Front Range. It’s primarily due to the transient community and the resort atmosphere.

Most of those are in the 17 to 25 age group, Ball said.

While all are welcome, WestCAP officials hope to reach what they called the “worried well.”

“Those are the folks who might have done something in their past that they’re a little concerned about,” Griffin said. “They’ve pushed it into the back of their mind. We all have those fixations, those things we should check on but just defer. This is a good way to resolve the worry that kind of sits there in their psyche.”

People at high risk are those who use intravenous needles, who have taken drugs, have had a tattoo made by someone other than a professional artist, have had unprotected sex with multiple partners or have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

According to WestCAP, African Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 54 percent of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections in the nation each year. For comparison, in 2001, white women represent 15 percent of new AIDS cases compared to 34 percent for African-American women.

Latinos represent 14 percent of the U.S. population yet accounted for 19 percent of new infections. White women represent 15 percent of new AIDS cases compared to 23 percent Latinas.

Men who have sex with men account for 42 percent of all new infections.

And in 1986, women accounted for 7 percent of the HIV infections; last year, 30 percent are women, with African American women accounting for 64 percent of new AIDS cases.

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