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Family First Health offering free HIV tests

Katherine Ranzenberger
505-5439/@YDKatherine

About one in eight HIV-positive Americans don't realize they have the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family First Health in York City offered free screenings Monday for National HIV Testing Day in hopes of helping those people.

Volunteers and workers with Family First Health are canvasing downtown York City to get people in for free and confidential HIV testing for National HIV Testing Day, June 27. The testing is going on from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. It's offered from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every Monday through Friday for free as well.  Katherine Ranzenberger photo

"It's been a great event," said Shannon McElroy, Caring Together program manager with Family First. "We've been doing this for four years, walking the streets to hand out fliers and condoms and getting people to come in for free testing."

Last year, 104 people were tested in six hours on National HIV Testing Day. About 34 of those were people who had never been tested before. McElroy said the organization hopes to beat that number this year.

The test is simple. Kirsten McWilliams, an intern with Family First, got hers done during the event.

"I just sat down and it was a quick prick on my finger and they take a little blood," she said. "It wasn't bad at all. It took about 10 minutes."

McWilliams was out with Tadd Hoffman, Linkage to Care coordinator, and Hazel Vaughn, eligibility specialist with Family First, handing out fliers in downtown York City to drum up interest. Vaughn said she hoped to stress the importance of getting tested.

Intern Kirsten McWilliams, left, and Tad Hoffman, Linkage to Care coordinator, right, of Family First Health hand out flyers in York for free HIV screenings during National HIV Testing Day, Monday, June 27, 2016.   John A. Pavoncello photo

"We want people to know their status," she said. "This is free and confidential. If you've never been tested, you don't truly know. If you're having a relationship with someone, you're having a relationship with everyone else they've been with."

Hoffman said the groups canvasing downtown were also handing out condoms because they want people to know they can be safe by using the prophylactic.

"HIV doesn't discriminate," he said. "We're trying to raise awareness that condoms help, too. Condoms are not just for protecting against pregnancy. They're for protecting against sexually transmitted diseases."

Family First also offers HIV testing from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, at its 116 S. George St. office in York City, McElroy said. The testing is always free and confidential.

For more information on the HIV testing, visit familyfirsthealth.org.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.