Today: Madison County Health Department offering free STD, HIV screenings

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - In Alabama, medical officials say people between the ages of 15 and 29 are twice as likely to be infected with HIV than the average resident.
Madison County Health Department representatives say that number can grow if young adults continue to have unprotected sex.

It doesn't matter your skin color, gender or number of sexual partners. Sexually transmitted diseases don't discriminate.

"It can affect anyone at any age," said Rhonda Jones, a Disease Intervention Specialist. "If you're having unprotected sex, you're taking the chance at getting HIV."

The Madison County Health Department is offering free HIV and AIDS screenings on Thursday, March 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in connection with National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  Anyone who receives a positive result will receive free treatment.  The Madison County Health Department is located at 301 Max Luther Drive NW, Huntsville, AL 35811.  The phone number is (256) 539-3711.

With about one out of 4 people living with HIV being women, it's a growing trend among women in particular.  Eighty-four percent of those cases are from heterosexual contact.

Jones says HIV and AIDS are not the only worries, though.  Any STD can be dangerous to your health.  "If you already have an STD, it makes it easier for HIV to come in to play," she added.

Many times, there are no symptoms to even know it's there.  The only way to know is to get tested.

It's a simple blood test that can allow you to keep your health on the right track.

"It's better if you catch it early on instead of when you're already sick," said Jones.  "So if you're sexually active, you need to get tested at least once a year - but I prefer twice."

Not to mention you need to take preventative measures to protect yourself.

"Using condoms properly is the best preventive measure that you can do," said Jones.  "Once everyone does that, then maybe we will cut down on some of this disease."