Jefferson County, Colo. — Across the U.S., about 1.2 million people have HIV — and about 13 percent of them don’t know it and need testing. That’s roughly twice the population of Jefferson County. While there has been significant progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS, as well as numerous scientific advances to care for those living with the disease and to prevent more individuals from acquiring it, there is still more work to do.
December 1 is World AIDS Day, and it offers us a chance to unite our community in preventing HIV, raise awareness for those living with it and remember those who have lost their lives to an HIV-related illness. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there was a decrease in testing numbers throughout the pandemic, but even still, the rate of new HIV diagnoses in Colorado and in Jeffco has remained stable.
As of the end of 2021, there were 1,032 people in Jefferson County living with HIV. Of these, 69% were actively engaged in care and 60% had a suppressed viral load (meaning the treatment they are receiving is helping their immune system work to prevent illness, and risk of transmission to others is greatly reduced).
The only way to be sure of your HIV status is to get tested. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) encourages everyone to get tested for HIV at least once, and routine testing is recommended for anyone who may need it. In honor of World AIDS Day, JCPH and the Points West HIV Prevention Program are hosting a special HIV testing and awareness event to encourage the community to learn more about the importance of HIV education and testing and learn their status. The event will be held at the clinic in Lakewood (645 Parfet St.) on December 1, 2022, from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. To help underline the importance of knowing your status, JCPH and Points West are providing a $10 incentive for each free and confidential HIV test, as well as gift bags, trivia and prizes. With just a quick finger prick, rapid results will be provided within approximately 30 minutes onsite and no insurance or ID is required.
If anyone is unable to make the testing event, JCPH does offer confidential, free, walk-in HIV and Hepatitis C testing at the Lakewood clinic every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. No ID or insurance is required, and $10 incentives for getting an HIV test are still available.
“At JCPH, we’re committed to helping our community take charge of their health. That’s why it’s so important to us to offer comprehensive sexual health services, including routine HIV testing and treatment for those who need it,” said Max Johnson, HIV & Harm Reduction Supervisor at JCPH. “We also want everyone in our community to know that learning your status doesn’t have to be a frightening thing — it’s about being empowered to take charge of your health and to bring that knowledge forward in your actions and relationships.”
In addition, JCPH reminds all members of the Jeffco community that stigma around HIV and AIDS remains high, which prevents people from learning their status and getting treatment. HIV stigma also creates unsafe environments for those living with HIV who face higher rates of violence, poverty and housing instability. Further, HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ+ community and on people of color.
“HIV doesn’t have to be a death sentence anymore, and people living with HIV are able to live long, full, happy lives. In addition, due to advancements like the availability of the once-daily HIV-prevention medication PrEP, the risk of transmitting HIV can be significantly lowered and at times even eliminated,” Johnson said. “The science has come so far, and for World AIDS Day, we encourage everyone in our community to do their part to keep progress moving by recognizing their own biases and working to combat them.”
In addition to testing, JCPH provides important care and connections to those who are living with HIV or working to prevent it, including:
In addition to the resources offered by JCPH, there are a number of places individuals can get more information about HIV:
To learn more about the JCPH Sexual Health Clinic, please visit our webpage or call 303-239-7078.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH [external link], Instagram @JeffcoPH [external link] and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth [external link].