Are you HIV-free? Find out for free

If you keep secrets from a fun-loving past, even as far back as three decades ago, you may carry a secret even you don’t know.

“A lot of people were exposed in the ‘80s when they were wild and crazy, and now they’re just finding out after being married 20 years,” said Brandy Miller, public health education specialist for Butte County.

That belatedly discovered secret is HIV. For a variety of reasons, people do not get tested, and so many county residents go about their daily lives unaware they have been exposed to a potentially lethal virus.

County health officials have done something about this. For the first time, the Butte County Department of Public Health promoted National HIV Testing Day, the 12th observance of which took place Tuesday (June 27). The department did not notice an increased demand that day for tests at its Chico and Oroville clinics, but Miller hopes the extra push translates into more appointments in coming days.

At first glance, the HIV and AIDS may not seem like such a concern here. According to records of reported cases, just 83 people are living with HIV in Butte County and 118 with AIDS—about one-tenth of 1 percent. However, Miller said, “the numbers definitely do not do justice” to the problem. The figures do not include people who got diagnosed elsewhere or have not reported their illness.

Or have not gotten tested.

“Fear is a big issue; people are afraid to know their status,” Miller said. Some people don’t realize they can get tested by oral swab rather getting blood drawn, and they haven’t heard the county offers free tests that are confidential or even anonymous.

The county is stressing tests, Miller said, because “early detection is key.” New medicines save lives if treatment begins early enough.

For more information on testing and HIV/AIDS, check the Health Department’s Web site ( or call its hotline (877-STD-INFO).