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When it comes to HIV, you can’t rely on symptoms to know whether or not you have the virus. In fact, you can look and feel perfectly healthy and still have HIV.

That’s because the virus often has no symptoms. This means the only way to know your status for sure is to get tested. 

“The good news is getting tested for HIV is quick, easy and confidential,” Allison Swift, N.P., Family Planning’s Director of Health Center Operations, said. 

And all next week at Family Planning — it’s also free. 

Free Testing Week

In honor of World AIDS Day, observed annually on Dec. 1, Family Planning of South Central New York will offer free rapid HIV testing and counseling from Monday, Dec. 6 through Friday, Dec. 10 at all five of our local medical centers.

Those center locations include:

  • Binghamton: 117 Hawley Street
  • Norwich: 5 Cortland Street
  • Oneonta: 37 Dietz Street
  • Sidney: 37 Pleasant Street (Tuesday only)
  • Walton: 130 North Street (Friday only)

Family Planning will be opening its sixth location in downtown Cortland, N.Y. early in 2022. 

Rapid HIV Testing

The rapid HIV test is a painless finger prick for a drop of blood. Results are ready in only a matter of minutes. During the visit, patients also receive counseling on how to identify and reduce their risk of HIV infection.

“Here in our region of upstate New York, we know we have many folks who are currently living with HIV but are unaware of their status, or folks who know they are positive but aren’t receiving timely treatment,” Swift said. “And as the Covid pandemic continues, it is more important than ever to continue to work to get folks access to testing, as well as other HIV-related prevention and treatment services.”

PrEP

In addition to offering rapid testing, Family Planning also offers PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, to help prevent HIV infection.

PrEP is for people who do not have HIV but remain at risk for getting the infection from sex, such as an HIV negative person with an HIV positive partner, or injectable drug use. 

The medication, one pill a day, can stop the virus from taking hold and spreading throughout the body. 

“Ending the HIV epidemic requires us to recognize and address the social challenges that block marginalized folks from equal access to services,” Swift said. “Here at Family Planning, we are proud to serve patients who are outside the gender binary, and to help them live authentically by providing the tools they need to prevent HIV and to stay healthy if they have HIV.”

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day, observed annually on Dec. 1, is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the virus, and remember those who have died from an HIV-related illness. 

Started in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day.

“World AIDS Day is important because it serves as a vital reminder that HIV has not gone away, and that there is still a critical need to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education around the virus,” Swift said.