(EIPH)—World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 of every year and is dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS caused by the spread of HIV infection. Every year, events take place across the country to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

In recognition of World AIDS Day, Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH) will be offering free confidential rapid HIV tests to encourage residents of eastern Idaho to know their HIV status. If you have ever had unprotected sex or shared needles, you could have been exposed to HIV. There’s only one way to know – get tested The schedule for free, confidential testing in Jefferson and Clark County will occur throughout the month of December.

The rapid HIV test provides results in about 15 minutes. If test results are reactive, blood will be drawn from the patient for a second test for confirmation.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of an infected person. Sharing syringes and needles can also expose a person to blood infected with HIV. Infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Early detection of HIV infection reduces the potential that a person may unknowingly spread HIV. “It is recommended that everyone gets tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, more frequently if recommended by a health care provider. Detecting HIV, like other diseases, can lead to better health outcomes if found early,” says Nikki Sayer, EIPH’s Nurse Manager.

In addition, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display for the public to view at the Elks Lodge (640 E. Elva – Idaho Falls). This is a free event. The dates and times the quilt is available for viewing are listed below.

n Wednesday, November 28 — Noon to 8 p.m.

n Thursday, November 29 — Noon to 3 p.m.

n Saturday, December 1 — Noon to 7 p.m.

n Also on Saturday, December 1 at 5:30 p.m., there will be a dedication of new panels for the National Names Project Memorial AIDS Quilt.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is an enormous quilt made as a memorial to and celebration of the lives of people who have died of AIDS-related causes. Each 3’ by 6’ panel is the size of a human grave. Since the quilt is so large, it is not displayed in its entirety. The AIDS Memorial Quilt display in Idaho Falls is one of the larger quilt displays in the country.

If you have any questions about HIV, AIDS, World AIDS Day or the AIDS Memorial Quilt, please contact Mimi Taylor at (208) 533-3155.

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