Experts say getting tested for HIV is easier than ever

By Alyssa Donovan

June 29, 2013 Updated Jun 29, 2013 at 11:04 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- On Saturday learning your HIV status was as easy as a walk in the park, John Gwynn Jr. Park.

"Are you positive you are negative'?" was the theme of this year's National HIV testing day event.

Outreach coordinator Chris Wade says the event is meant to encourage people to get tested and decrease the stigma that comes with getting tested.

"We know everyone's out there engaged in intimate activities," said Wade, of the Central IL Friends of PWA/ HOPE initiative, "and it's about protecting people and we're here to protect people and educate people about HIV and what they can do to reduce their risk of an exposure or transmission of HIV."

The HIV test consists of either a mouth swab or a finger pick.

Tester Mike Gianessi says it takes 20 minutes to get your results.

"Both of these are accurate at 99.9%," said Gianessi, "and we can give the results right then and there on the spot."

Testers are mandated by the state to follow HEPA law.

That means they have to keep quiet about your results.

"Anything that is said in here we cant tell anybody," said Gianessi. "You have to go to your doctor and take another test. We don't sign any forms or anything at all. This is all confidential."

Gianessi says if results are positive, testers offer help enrolling into care, but the choice is up to each individual.

According to the Peoria County heath department, a growing number of people in their late teens and early 20s are getting diagnosed, but health experts say every time someone gets tested for HIV, everyone wins.

"This is no longer a death sentence," said Gianessi.

For more information about getting tested for HIV, visit www.poz-neg.com.