Piedmont Access to Health Services at 705 Main St. is offering free HIV tests during National HIV Testing Day.

On June 1, PATHS became part of the Virginia Department of Health’s expanded rapids results testing program using a simple finger prick to test for antibodies. Reactive tests are confirmed with blood tests.

So far, PATHS’ Community HIV/AIDS Assistance Program has conducted 20 tests and program manager Carol Napier said the goal is to conduct at least 300 tests by Dec. 31.

Trained clinical staff will be on site in Danville from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday. Participants can just walk into the lobby, register and take the test. Results will come back within 20 minutes. Napier said the staff will test as many people as is “humanly possible.”

“Everyone should have a baseline HIV test,” Napier said, adding one in five people nationwide is living with HIV and doesn’t know it.

In 2010, 1,574 people in Southwest Virginia were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, she said. Of those, 204 people live in the Danville and Pittsylvania County area. People already living with a sexually transmitted infection are up to 10 times more likely to be co-infected with HIV.

Getting tested helps individuals detect HIV and get treatment to prevent AIDS. The testing program aims to keep HIV from spreading, Napier said.

It would help overall community health, including with health care costs incurred by individuals unaware of their HIV seeking treatment for symptoms at the emergency department, added case manager Danielle Williams.

Eventually, HIV testing will be expanded to PATHS’ community medical centers in Boydton, Martinsville and Chatham, Napier said.

For more information, visit www.hivtest.org or call Napier at (434) 791-4795 or call Williams at (434) 791-4796. Patients can make appointments for free HIV tests.

(As publiushed in the Danville Register & Bee on 06/25/2012)