Jun 27, 2011 6:01 PM by Drew Trafton
BILLINGS- Currently, 1 in 5 people who are infected with HIV are unaware they are carrying the virus.
In Montana, there are currently 476 people who have HIV-with 6 new cases added in March and April of 2011.
These statistics, and many others, tell Yellowstone AIDS Project Prevention Coordinator, Morgan Ditto, that HIV awareness is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of attention in Billings.
"It's not the actual HIV Positive population which furthers the epidemic," said Ditto. "It's those that don't know their status, the people that aren't getting tested."
Yellowstone Aids Project and RiverStone Health spent the day in two areas of Billings trying to promote AIDS awareness by offering free HIV testing to anyone wanting a test.
From 11am-2pm, the group offered free testing at South Park in Billings, and then continued the testing at North Park from 3pm-6pm.
Ditto says the two parks were targeted due to nearby residents whom healthcare officials say have been neglectful of their health due to the economic strains on man living there.
But Ditto says the free testing is something everyone should be eager to take advantage of, especially when it's preventative of a virus which may not show sign on symptoms for a decade or more.
"The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that everyone gets tested at least once in their lifetime," said Ditto. "And those at higher risk get tested at least once a year."
The HIV test Yellowstone AIDS Project gives to those seeking the test is completely free and an appointment can be arranged at any time (for more information about YAP click here).
The test is taken via oral swab, and including a questionnaire and AIDS preventative information, lasts only about 20 minutes.
Those who completed the test received a $5 gift card to Wendy's, Dairy Queen and Salad Creations.