On June 27th Family First Health will celebrate HIV Testing Day by offering free, confidential HIV testing from 8:30 am-3:30 pm at our George Street Center in Downtown York. This is a collaborative effort between Family First Health, WellSpan Community Health Center and the York City Bureau of Health.

National HIV Testing Day is an annual campaign coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to encourage people of all ages to get tested for HIV, know their status and get linked to care and treatment.

Family First Health collaborates with WellSpan Health to provide coordinated, high-quality care for people who are HIV positive. The Caring Together program helps patients easily access the services they need.

In honor of the upcoming HIV Testing Day, one of our patients generously agreed to share their story.

How long have you been HIV-positive?

Since 2009

Why did you decide to get care?

I was in denial for about one month, thought I had the flu or just a really bad cold. I started getting really back fevers, had a terrible rash on my tongue (what I learned later was thrush), and started passing out at work. One day I felt really sick so I decided to go to the emergency room to get checked out. The Dr in the ER told me I had the virus and that if I went home that night I would die. So my choices were to go home and die or stay at the hospital to be treated- I stayed at the hospital. I was inpatient for about one month. When I was discharged I came to FFH for my outpatient medical care. Staff at FFH helped me get insurance, pay for the expensive medications, and with other resources.

What’s your advice to others who have been recently diagnosed with HIV?

Look towards the future because of new medications, we can have a future. Take your medications daily, make sure you are involved with FFH Caring Together to get support and resources.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about living with HIV/AIDS?

A lot of people still think HIV/AIDS is a death sentence, it is not anymore. People need to be educated to know it is not taboo; it is not a death sentence. People with HIV/AIDS should not loose friends over family over the disease.

What do you think needs to happen to reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS?

Clear idea of what treatment looks like, which is taking your medication every day. Also, showing the faces the HIV/AIDS- anyone can get it.

Why should people know their status?

So they can continue to live a healthy life. If sexually active, to not pass it to others and to be safe.

How can others show their support of people living with HIV/AIDS?

Just be supportive. Be there for us and give us hope to live.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

After I was diagnosed, I felt hopeless and guilty. I blamed myself because of my behaviors and my lifestyle that most likely was the reason why I got infected. The staff at FFH helped me see I had purpose in life and gave me hope to continue to live.

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