NASHUA — For the second year in a row, $10 gift cards will be offered Friday to anyone who is tested for HIV at two different sites in the city.
As part of National HIV Testing Day, anyone interested in being tested for the disease is encouraged to visit the city’s mobile outreach van from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday at 28 Railroad Square, the Laton House. Testing will also take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the city’s health department, 18 Mulberry St.
“Getting tested is an important part of living a longer and healthier life, and we hope members of our community will take advantage of this free testing day,” said Kerran Vigroux, director of the city’s Division of Public Health and Community Services.
All testing is free of charge, and the procedure takes about 20 minutes. Including registration, the entire process could be about 45 minutes.
Last year, the city’s health department began distributing gift cards as an incentive to collect as many people as possible for testing. The free, $10 gift cards will be offered for area grocery or retail stores.
“Last year we had over 70 people come and get tested. It was a huge success,” said Melissa Whalen of the city’s health department. “We are hoping for even more later this week.”
In addition to the gift cards being offered, participants will also be entered into a raffle for prizes such as an adult bike with a helmet and lock, a year membership to the YMCA of Greater Nashua and a $100 gift card to CVS. Organizers are encouraging people to spread the word about the free testing sites, especially to individuals who may be prone to at risk behaviors such as intravenous drug users, same-sex male partners or anyone having sex with intravenous drug users.
The testing process is painless, according to organizers. It requires a swab inside of a person’s mouth along the gumline and mucous membrane of the cheek. Negative results are known immediately, however positive results will require a blood sample that will then be sent to state health officials for confirmation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 13 to 64 be tested at least once in their lifetime. “This year marks the 20th annual National HIV Testing Day, a time to promote one of our best tools for HIV prevention,” states the CDC website. “Too many people — one in six — who are living with HIV are not aware of it.” According to the CDC, nearly 1.1 million people in the country are living with HIV, which is most commonly spread through unprotected sex or sharing needles with a person who is HIV positive, or from an infected mother to her baby.
In addition to this one-time free HIV testing event on Friday, the city’s health department conducts weekly STD/HIV clinics from 3 to 6 p.m. each Thursday at 18 Mulberry St.
For more information, call 589-4500.