St. Charles clinic offering hassle-free HIV testing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2012



LULING – Physicians at the St. Charles Community Health Center are making it easier for patients in the River Parishes to go through the necessary tests to check for contraction of the virus that causes AIDS.

The Luling clinic is now part of a statewide program offering rapid HIV testing for residents who fear they may have contracted the virus. Health Center Operations Manager Jennifer Frizzell said the rapid test is not only quicker, but it is also less intrusive than more traditional methods.

“In the past, the only method was a blood test, which can take up to two weeks to process results,” Frizzell said. “People are often afraid to give blood, and they don’t always come back for the results. The rapid test requires a quick swab of the mouth and results are returned in 20 minutes with no need to draw any blood.”

Frizzell also said the new quick test eliminates the need for residents to pay the fees necessary for a blood test. She said residents who have come in for an HIV test in the past often don’t have the spare $32 needed to do the test.

“The rapid test is completely free, and patients are allowed to be completely anonymous,” Frizzell said. “We are hoping to boost the number of residents in the area that get the test because it is a growing problem in our region.”

According to figures from the Louisiana Office of Public Health from Region 3, which includes St. John, St. James and St. Charles parishes, the number of people living with HIV has risen every year since 2001. In 2010, 58 people were diagnosed with HIV in Region 3, which is a 45 percent increase from 2009. The figures show that there are as many as 600 people total living with HIV in Region 3.

“The numbers are still on the rise,” Frizzell said. “We have also found that at least one out of every five people who have HIV don’t even know it. Our goal with the rapid testing is to foster more education about the disease and what people can do to prevent contraction of the disease. We also want those who have HIV to understand that they can continue to live normal lives.”

Frizzell said anyone from any of the River Parishes 17 or older is free to come in and receive a test. She said Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. are reserved for anonymous testing, but walk-ins are welcome.

Once the test is conducted, Frizzell said a nurse or physician assesses the readiness of a patient to see the results. While waiting for the results, the patient is offered educational material on how to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

If the test comes back negative, the patient is free to go, but they are advised to come back for another test in a year. If the test is positive, another swab is taken and sent off to a state lab for verification. Frizzell said the rapid test is more than 99 percent accurate.

“If it is positive, we refer the patient to appropriate medical care and advise them on medications,” Frizzell said. “There is no cure for HIV, but there are so many new interventions that allow patients to live very normal lives.”

Frizzell said the tests are limited to the Luling location of the health center but added that availability will expand to the Norco location by March. For more information, contact the health center at 985-785-5800.