HELENA — On Thursday, Lewis and Clark County Commissioners decided in a unanimous vote to enter into a contract with FDH and Associates and the county Public Health Department to continue HIV testing and outreach, despite HIV rates being low in the county.
“HIV rates are low, we have had 2 cases in the last year and 3 cases in the previous year, so all of this testing we do is to find those cases and keep those rates low,” said Laurel Riek, Lewis and Clark County Public Health Administrator.
FDH and Associates will continue outreach and prevention services by providing testing, counseling and report any positive tests to Public Health.
In the last year FDH and Associates has completed over 100 HIV and Hepatitis C tests which is a 131 percent increase over the previous year.
“FDH and Associates regularly schedules testing events in our county, and they advertise through social media and they will continue to do their outreach toward that population,” said Riek.
According to Public Health, HIV can be prevented through using condoms, not sharing medical needles and there is pre-exposure prophylaxis that can prevent HIV and be obtained through the Ryan White Program.
There is also anti-viral medication that is prescribed for those who are HIV positive, this medication can keep viral loads to a non-detectable level.
HIV-positive Individuals can now have a life expectancy near that of an HIV-negative person as long as they maintain their medication and follow-up with their physician.
FDH and Associates is contracted through December of 2022 and Public Health says they see this as an opportunity to keep the community well.
“This contract is really what Public Health is all about is looking for opportunities to test and refer individuals to make sure everyone is safe and healthy,” said Riek.
You can find more information about HIV testing and risks here.