UNMC, RWMC partner to offer HIV testing clinic

By MAUNETTE LOEKS
Staff Reporter
A group of UNMC College of Nursing – West Nebraska division students are urging Panhandle residents to “Know Your Status” and offering free HIV testing in a walk-in clinic.
Five students, Jennifer Prime, Christine Newell, Andy Talbert, Jenna Propp and Janeene Zobell, have partnered with Regional West Community Health Clinic to offer the HIV testing on four dates in March and April. The group hosted its first clinic on Tuesday and will have clinics on March 20, April 3 and April 17, at Regional West Community Health Clinic, located in St. Mary Plaza.
The walk-in clinic evolved as the students worked on a project in their population health class at UNMC College of Nursing in Scottsbluff, Christine Newell explained. The group started out with a focus and research on HIV positive population in the area, but learned through the Nebraska AIDS Project of resources available.
“We learned that there is not a problem with getting services in the Panhandle, but those individuals need to get connected with services,” she said.
The group finished its project, but decided to continue advocating on the issue, opting to offer a pilot clinic advocating for HIV testing.
Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all individuals be tested for HIV, Zobell said.
According to the CDC website, it recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, which Prime called a “baseline test” and those at increased risk—such as gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or persons with multiple sexual partners — should be tested at least annually.
“The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that HIV testing become more standardized, more routine,” Prime said. “That we adopt an attitude that isn’t ‘Ewwww, you have been doing bad things you need to have an HIV test’ but more “I’m being proactive about my health.”
Prime said the goal is to have HIV testing be more of a routine test, such as testing for high blood pressure or other health conditions, Prime said.
Regular testing also helps in early diagnosis of the disease, Talbert said.  Statistics show that early detection, as well as patients adhering to a prescribed medication regimen, increases life expectancy. Patients who are diagnosed early have much better outcomes and reduces the spread of the disease.
“HIV is not a death sentence,” Prime said. “It can be treated as a chronic disease, like diabetes.”
Programs are also available to help patients access health and treatment services. 
Testing at the clinic will be offered on a walk-in basis. Persons looking for the testing site at St. Mary’s need only to ask for “Adult Screening,” though persons of any age can be tested. Counseling will also be available on elimination or reducing risk behaviors.
Testing is offered free, but donations are accepted. Testing will be from 3 to 7 p.m., at 3700 Ave. B on each of the clinic dates.
 For more information, call 308-632-3807.

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