Board of Health offering free HIV tests

— It often happens when two strangers meet and take an immediate liking to each other.

A guy or a girl makes eye contact with someone across the room to whom they’re attracted. That person returns the interest with an enticing glance. They move toward each other and start dancing and flirting. There’s mutual interest and they decide to go someplace private to get a little more intimate.

Then the question is asked.

“What’s your status?”

It’s an important question because it refers to a person’s HIV status, and officials at Clayton County Board of Health can help people learn the answer to that query.

Healthcare officials say it is not a question of values — it’s reality.

The health department has announced it is offering free, discrete HIV testing each Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The tests, which take 20 minutes to complete, are available to anyone over 13 who visits the Board of Health regardless of which county they call home. The health office is located at 1117 Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro.

People interested in learning their HIV status are encouraged to call public health educator John Rhodes at 678-610-7486.

There were 40,328 Georgians living with HIV/AIDS in 2010, according to Georgia Department of Public Health data. Nearly two-thirds of those cases were in metropolitan Atlanta.

The state’s numbers include 949 people in Clayton County who had HIV that had not yet developed into AIDS. There were also 1,003 Clayton County residents who had AIDS.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people who are sexually active to get regular HIV tests. People who have received blood transfusions are also encouraged to get tested. The CDC has set up an HIV testing information website, http://hivtest.cdc.gov, to educate Americans on the importance of getting tested and what to do if a test comes back positive.

June 27 also has been established as National HIV Testing Day to raise awareness about the importance of getting tested.