Public health campaign recommends HIV testing across rural MinnesotaRural AIDS Action Network (RAAN), the nonprofit organization working to raise awareness and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Greater Minnesota, is encouraging at-risk rural Minnesotans to receive free, confidential HIV testing and counseling as part of the summer “Take the Test. Take Control.” public health campaign.
Rural AIDS Action Network (RAAN), the nonprofit organization working to raise awareness and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Greater Minnesota, is encouraging at-risk rural Minnesotans to receive free, confidential HIV testing and counseling as part of the summer “Take the Test. Take Control.” public health campaign.
The awareness and prevention campaign is part of the June 27 National HIV Testing Day initiative, which informs the public that virtually anyone can be at risk of contracting HIV, depending on their lifestyle and behaviors. RAAN billboards, promoting the HIV test campaign, will be visible in seven Minnesota locations throughout the summer.
To determine your risk factors for contracting HIV, visit www.raan.org. RAAN has established a toll-free hotline at 1-800-966-9735 to schedule a free, confidential HIV test and to receive information about HIV prevention.
“In rural Minnesota, nearly 30 percent of individuals are unaware of their HIV infection, and they may be symptom-free for up to a decade, continuing to unknowingly infect others,” said RAAN executive director Charles Hempeck. “We’re asking at-risk men and women to take responsibility for their health and the health of others. Testing is quick, free and confidential.”
RAAN is now using a new test that provides results in 20 minutes. A swab is taken of the subject’s cheek. A line appears on the test stick indicating either reactive or non-reactive results based on the presence or absence of HIV antibodies.
If an individual is HIV positive, quick access to appropriate medical care can lead to better outcomes. It takes only minutes to receive HIV test results. And, new HIV/AIDS treatments can significantly enhance the quality and length of life.
“Years ago, an individual would take 20 to 30 pills twice a day. Current treatment options could be as little as one pill twice a day,” Hempeck explained.
Testing and education also helps people who test negative get the information they need to stay uninfected.
Hempeck said Rural AIDS Action Network is especially interested in reaching minority communities with the HIV testing and prevention message.
“We are reaching out to communities at increased risk of HIV infection, including African American and Latino populations, both of which are disproportionately affected with HIV when compared to other demographic groups in Minnesota and the United States.
Across rural Minnesota, 29 percent of RAAN’s clients are women and more than one-third of the clients are people of color, including more African-born immigrants. And, as many clients are becoming infected with HIV through heterosexual sex (37 percent) as gay sexual contact (38 percent).
Approximately 13 percent of Minnesota HIV/AIDS cases are in rural areas, compared with 8 percent nationally.
Because of the growing and increasingly diverse number of HIV/AIDS cases being seen, RAAN serves all of Greater Minnesota through satellite offices in Little Falls, Mankato, Bemidji, Alexandria, Hibbing and Mora.
For more information about RAAN and the comprehensive services it provides throughout rural Minnesota, visit www.raan.org.
RAAN is a nonprofit, community-based organization whose mission is to organize, develop and sustain caring communities of professionals and volunteers that serve and support persons living with, affected by, or at risk for HIV/AIDS in rural Minnesota.