Dear Editor:

December 1 has been observed as World AIDS Day since 1995. It is a time for acknowledging the effect of HIV in our lives. Perhaps you feel that HIV has no place in your life, especially here in quiet, bucolic Northeast Iowa.

But despite the stereotypical safe image of agricultural America, today's rural communities are not immune to big-city problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The Center for Disease Control recommends HIV screening for all individuals aged 13-64 years old.

The theme for last year and this year for World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." This means: zero new cases, zero deaths, and zero HIV-related discrimination/stigma.

The Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation Clinic is now more involved than ever before in supporting World AIDS Day, but not just on Dec. 1. For many years, we have done education on prevention in the schools and health fairs, and provided free condoms in our clinic. At this time, we are offering rapid HIV testing in our clinic by appointment. Results are available in 15 minutes with counseling provided by a professional.

We encourage Decorah and the surrounding communities to take up the challenge and help prevent HIV by raising awareness, lessen the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and get tested. Please take care of yourself and call for your appointment today.