National HIV Testing Day prompts C.O. health warning

More than 5,000 people living with HIV in Oregon

National HIV Testing Day

BEND, Ore. - Thursday was National HIV Testing Day, an annual effort to encourage people to get screened for the virus that causes aids. Although Deschutes County did not hold a special event, they want to educate everyone about the importance of testing.

"Everywhere," said Sari Qurada, Deschutes County's HIV prevention program director. "People are infected, and all types of people are infected."

Ourada says more than 5,000 Oregonians are living with HIV.

"Every year, 275 people are diagnosed -- and that's been stable for the past 10 years, which is good," Ourada said.

Most of the Oregonians with HIV live in Portland. But about 50 people test positive in Deschutes County, where numbers are on the rise.

"That doesn't mean that everyone is linked to care, and that doesn't mean that everyone is taking antiviral medications," Ourada said. "So the number of people living with HIV here has increased."

On National HIV Testing Day, the county used to offer free tests. But this year, big budget cuts stood in the way. Certain groups that are at high risk might be eligible for the county's help to get tested.

"The high-risk populations are the injection drug users and men who have sex with men," Ourada said. "Then, by default, anyone who has sex with those people are high risk."

Early diagnosis is key to stop the spread of the disease, and early treatment can help a person maintain a normal lifestyle.

Even though county health officials are not offering free tests, they will be set up at Central Oregon Pride this weekend to educate more people about the disease.

The CDC estimates more than 1 million people are living with HIV -- and one in five doesn't know they're infected.

To get tested, people can make an appointment at the county. It costs between $7 and $20. Get more information at the county's HIV/AIDS Program Web page.

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