GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — World AIDS Day is Sunday, Dec. 1.
In observing the day, the Kent County Health Department will be offering free walk-in HIV testing during the week, starting Dec. 2.
World AIDS Day was established over 30 years ago, during the peak of the HIV pandemic.
"It is a day of remembrance for those that lost their lives to AIDS, and also a day to focus on moving forward and ending HIV," said April Haight, the personal health services program supervisor with the Kent County Health Department.
More than one million people in the United States are living with HIV, according to the CDC. The CDC says that one in eight people who are infected with HIV don't know it.
"It is so important because there are no real, classic signs of HIV," said Haight. "A lot of times, when someone has HIV they have no way of knowing for a long time unless they get tested. What we don't want is for it to progress into AIDS."
Haight encouraged people to come in and get tested if they never have before or people should come in if they have an outdated test.
"The stigma, with these negative attitudes, leads to people not wanting to test. Because some people feel, 'I would rather not know.' Living with HIV and having that stigma is so bad," said Haight. "We are really trying to use this day to spread the knowledge that we have come really far with HIV."
Haight encouraged people to increase their knowledge on the current state of HIV.
The Kent County Health Department is accepting walk-ins for HIV testing from Monday, Dec. 2 to Friday, Dec. 6, 8 a.m. - 6:45 p.m. This testing is only being offered at the main clinic at 700 Fuller Ave. NE in Grand Rapids.
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