Starke Health Department Offers Free HIV, Hepatitis C Tests

healthyThe Starke County Health Department is offering free screenings for a couple of blood-borne diseases on Monday. Residents can get checked for HIV and Hepatitis C from 10 a.m. until noon at the health department office on the first floor of the Starke County Courthouse.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and nearly one in five people who have the disease are unaware. As a result, they don’t get proper medical care and can pass the virus along to others without knowing it.

HIV can be controlled with medication but can turn into full-blown AIDS if it is not treated. People at the greatest risk for infection are those who have more than one sex partner, inject drugs or are men who have sex with other men. The CDC recommends they be tested at least once per year.

The Hepatitis C virus causes an infection of the liver. Estimates indicated 3.2 people in the United States have the disease. Most are unaware since it causes few symptoms. They include jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes and dark urine; fatigue, nausea and loss of appetite.

Hepatitis C is transmitted by sharing drugs and needles, through sexual contact or by being stuck by infected needles. A mother can also pass the virus to a child.

The CDC recommends anyone who has received blood from an infected donor, has ever injected drugs, had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July of 1992, received a blood product used to treat clotting problems before 1987, was born between 1945 and 1965, has been on long-term kidney dialysis, has HIV or was born to a mother with Hepatitis C should be tested.

Chronic Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. It can be treated with medications, although they are quite expensive.

Contact the Starke County Health Department at 574-772-9137 for more information about Monday’s free screenings.