As STIs become more common in the area, Stateline health experts recommend yearly screenings

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — One of the best ways to prevent HIV from progressing into AIDS is early detection, advocates pointed out. Doctors can catch the disease early through STI screening.

Shayna Chiarelli, Director of Clinical Operations at Crusader Community Health, recommended getting tested every year, and is hoping to combat the stigma around screening.

Experts said people should not feel ashamed to make testing a part of their yearly healthcare routine.

“People have a stereotype of who is an HIV-positive patient, or person, and honestly, it can be anyone,” Chiarelli said.

Local medical experts said “World AIDS Day” serves as a reminder about the importance of getting tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

“An unwillingness to take a test means more people are diagnosed late, which makes treatment less effective and could’ve already progressed to AIDS once they do get tested, and this also increases the likelihood to others,” Chiarelli said.

Crusader Community Health clinics offer free HIV testing at all of their locations.

“What we really try to do is implement this as part as routine care,” Chiarelli said. “So, all of our patients 13 and up should be getting tested for HIV at least annually.”

Certain sexually transmitted infections are becoming increasingly common in Winnebago County. Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health showed that there were more cases of chlamydia and syphilis reported in the county in the first half of this year than the same time period in 2020.

Chiarelli said that people should not be afraid to prioritize their sexual health.

“You definitely want to take proactive measures when it comes to sexual behavior and IV drug use,” Chiarelli said. “Those are our two main forms of transmission that you see.”

The Winnebago County Health Department also offers screenings for HIV and other STDs. Patients will be charged a sliding fee based on income.

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