HERA – Health Education and Research Association and the Association for Support of People Living with HIV “Stronger Together” will mark the European HIV Testing Week from 31 May to 7 June. This is an international initiative that has been joined by more than 600 organizations across Europe wishing to raise awareness about the importance of timely HIV testing and of access to HIV therapy.
This year, the spring HIV testing week in our country will be observed under the slogan “HIV positive stories: I live my life in all colors”. The campaigns that will run on the social media over the next seven days will share the stories of 7 persons living with HIV in Macedonia – personal experiences that contradict the prevailing idea that living with HIV is necessarily associated with being sick and suffering. What makes all these stories positive is the fact that their protagonists have found out their HIV positive status on time and started taking their anti-retroviral therapy regularly, supported by the health professionals and associations dealing with the issue of HIV.
In order to make the HIV testing more accessible and encourage the citizens to find out their HIV status, as part of this year’s spring European HIV Testing Week, HERA and “Stronger Together” will provide free and confidential HIV testing with rapid tests and counseling. These services are available in HERA’s “I Want To Know” Youth Centre at Vodno, every workday from 16 hrs to 20 hrs, and during weekends from 11 hrs to 15 hrs, as well as in the office of the “Stronger Together” Association every Wednesday from 16 hrs to 19 hrs. To obtain further information or make an appointment, citizens may call HERA at 02/3-176-950 or “Stronger Together” at 078/431-866. HIV testing and counseling is performed in compliance with the internal protocols for admission of clients and provision of services during the health crisis caused by COVID-19.
A mobile Android app “Napravi HIV test” is available to citizens which they can use to obtain information about risks of HIV transmission and protection from HIV, and to locate all the sites across the country where free and confidential HIV testing and counseling can be provided. The app is free to download from Google Play.
It has been estimated that in our country today some 35% of people living with HIV do not know their HIV positive status, that is, they are not aware that they are HIV positive. Knowing one’s own HIV status as early as possible is crucially important, because today, thanks to the HIV therapy, which is available free of charge in our country, people living with HIV can live a long and quality life. People living with HIV have almost the same life expectancy as the HIV negative people, if they start their treatment on time. On the other hand, regular adherence to HIV therapy is one of the most effective ways to prevent the virus, as the therapy suppresses the virus to a so-called undetectable level, when it becomes impossible to be transmitted sexually to another person.