CHICAGO (WLS) -- On National HIV Testing Day, Howard Brown Health partnered with Greater Than AIDS to provide free rapid HIV screenings at select Walgreens locations.
"Getting tested for HIV is so important because in order to end the HIV epidemic, we want to make sure everyone knows their status," Howard Brown Health Manager Antonio Elizondo said.
As of 2019, the CDC estimated up to 13 percent of the 1.2 million people in the U.S. with HIV did not know they had it. New HIV infections have declined in recent years.
Their data also found that the HIV epidemic disproportionately impacts gay and bisexual men, as well as Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino people.
"The most infections are among young gay and bisexual men and heavily among young gay men of color," Cook County Health Clinical Psychologist Sybil Hosek said.
Howard Brown Heath Walk-in Coordinator Dorothy Austin, who has been conducting HIV screenings for years, said the screening process takes minutes. The results come even faster.
But Austin said it's never easy to pass along a positive result.
"In most instances, they are sitting just like this, just listening," Austin said. "Once I give them my spiel, I stop talking because now it's like, do you want to talk about it?"
But Hosek said now, there are treatments for HIV that mean a positive result isn't a death sentence.
"The great thing about HIV treatments now is that getting on these medications which are so simple compared to what they used to be- (it) could be a single tablet every day, could be an injection every couple of months," Hosek said.
According to the CDC, HIV treatment pills are recommended for those who are just beginning HIV treatment, whereas shots are more suitable for others who have had an undetectable viral load for at least three months.
Howard Brown Health officials said individuals at high risk for HIV should get tested every three months, while everyone else should get tested at least once a year.