Local non-profit organization provides free testing for HIV
The idea of having a life-threatening disease is a terrifying thought for most people, especially one there is no cure for.
Inland Oasis is a local non-profit organization that, among other things, provides free HIV testing as part of an outreach for World AIDS Day.
Chris Bidiman said he started the HIV testing program in 2008, after he realized he was interested in working in the public health industry.
“I was working in an adult store, and a big part of what I was doing was safe-sex education in the dorms,” he said. “I realized I loved talking about … prevention practices, and so I eventually switched into a public health degree … So I just took it upon myself and said, ‘There’s not really any testing resources in this area, let’s design something people can access.'”
Kathy Sprague said she has helped with the HIV testing since Inland Northwest started doing it. She said she thinks anyone who’s sexually active should be tested.
“Knowledge is power and knowing your status is important,” she said. “Definitely, if you are HIV positive that changes some things as far as communication. Everyone should have open communication with their partners, but it’s even more important if you’re positive, letting your partners know what’s going on. It’s just something that everyone who’s sexually active should be aware of — their physical state, their risk of transmission and their actual status.”
Sprague said she got involved with Inland Oasis and HIV testing because she has personally seen the devastation HIV can cause.
“Gay men are perceived as being a very high-risk population, and that’s a portion of the population that Inland Oasis serves,” she said. “I have lost a lot of friends to the disease. I did hospice care for a friend … My 18th birthday we came out to each other officially and my 28th birthday was his funeral.”
Bidiman said it is important to get tested despite fears of what the result may be. He said many people who came in for testing this year did so for the first time. Much of the time, he said, a person develops anxiety related to the uncertainty.
According to Bidiman, receiving the test results and knowing for sure they don’t have HIV serves as a reassurance to many of those anxious people.
“Finding your resources and just biting that bullet is the most important thing to do, and it’s scary,” Bidiman said. “I know the first time I got tested I cried, ‘cause it was so nerve wracking, and now it’s so routine that it’s a lot easier. Doing it the first time is the best way to start.”
Moscow citizen Jake Bauer said he was getting tested again since he last got tested a year ago.
“It’s not only beneficial for you, but it helps you protect others,” he said. “Safer sexual practice and just knowing your status lets you know how careful you have to be. I mean, you should always be careful, but when you have a test that comes back positive … you don’t want to pass that on to someone else, and so you need to be more careful.”
Bauer said he thinks getting tested is worthwhile, especially because the only downside is a slight amount of pain.
“It takes a little time, you get poked in the finger with a needle,” Bauer said. “That’s about the worst there is to it, and from that you are able to know your status for certain, and that helps you protect yourself and protect others, and it’s always worth your time to do that.”
Daphne Jackson can be reached at email@example.com