By Michelle Durham
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A U.S. Preventative Health Task Force has issued a draft recommendation that all people between the ages of 15 and 65 be tested for HIV infection, as well as those who are at increased risk.
Gary Bell, Executive Director of Bebashi, Transition to Hope, an organization committed to improving the health of those in the urban community, works with the HIV positive population and is all for it. He believes it will go a long way to preventing more people from contracting the incurable illness.
“I am in favor of these recommendations and have been for some time,” Bell says. “It’s estimated that about 20 to 21% of people living with HIV are unaware and they account for as many as 50% of the new infections, and in the African American community it could be as high as 75%.”
Bell says it’s crucial that people know their HIV status because it can take as long as five to ten years before any symptoms surface after being infected.
“People think you could look at someone and tell they are HIV positive or they will right away get certain symptoms and that’s just not the case,” he says. “They can go many years without knowing and they could be infecting other people.”
Bell says his staff at Bebashi helps those who can’t afford the expensive HIV medication find low or no cost medical care. The organization also offers counseling. Bell wants everyone to know that it can happen to you and you need to take steps to protect yourself from HIV infection.