Free HIV Testing in Wisconsin

Free and low-cost testing locations near you.

According to the most recent data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, nearly 14% of all individuals (one in seven) living with HIV are unaware of their health status. From this estimate, it can be assumed that the total population of people living with HIV in Wisconsin state is well over 1,100 people/100,000 population since there were over 6,330 HIV-positive people in the state in 2018.

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Why Testing Matters?

Late diagnosis occurs when the infection advances to Stage 3 or AIDS within one year of initial diagnosis. And, it takes nearly 8 to 10 years for someone to develop AIDS after contracting HIV, indicating an extensive window is available to people living with HIV to get treated for the virus before it turns fatal. However, still, many remain oblivious to the significance and cruciality of getting tested for HIV.

It is important to note that early diagnosis is the key to a healthy and long life. Appropriate treatment can prevent the infection from progressing to Stage 3. During 2018, Wisconsin state reported over 85 deaths among people living with HIV, and one out of three individuals or 34% of the deceased lost their lives primarily due to HIV.

Still, given the introduction of medications and advanced treatment options, the median age at death among HIV-infected individuals in Wisconsin has substantially increased since 1982. You can also live long with HIV if only you make sure to get tested for HIV annually so that the virus could be detected at the right time and timely treatment is provided.

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Government Initiatives

Wisconsin HIV Program ensures confidential, and name-associated reporting of confirmed cases of HIV to the state epidemiologist and the reports are then submitted to the Wisconsin HIV Program. Records are obtained from private physicians, clinics, hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, and sexually transmitted disease clinics.

In addition to this, data is acquired from the Wisconsin correctional system and other facilities like blood and plasma centers, family planning clinics, perinatal clinics, military entrance processing stations, tribal health clinics, and laboratories performing HIV testing. Furthermore, the program collaborates with other state-level initiatives such as AIDS/HIV Drug Assistance Program and AIDS/HIV Health Insurance Premium Subsidy Program to obtain HIV-related records, particularly infection rate across the state and morbidity rate.

Wisconsin state makes laboratory-based reporting necessary by law and that laboratories perform confidential, name-associated HIV confirmatory testing. The report is submitted to the HIV Program with the name of the physician who prescribed the test, the name of the subject, and all the positive samples. The information is used to identify people who have been diagnosed with HIV recently and the ongoing diagnostic trends.

In Wisconsin, HIV testing occurs in numerous settings, such as publicly funded test sites, private medical clinics, and especially designated CTR (counseling, testing, and referral) sites. CTR Sites are funded by the Division of Public Health and include local health departments and community-based organizations.

The HIV Care Continuum is used at local, state, and regional levels to monitor and assess engagement in care and the health status of people living with HIV. A portion of this continuum measures timely access to care.

The Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR) is a federally funded center focused on preventing HIV/AIDS through behavioral interventions. It is the only research center located between two American coasts. Over the past two decades, the CAIR team managed to bring in over $150 million in funding and has published more than a thousand research papers. The center operates twelve full-time faculties and is engaged in approx. Twenty projects at a time related to a variety of subjects, from adolescents to elderly citizens.

CAIR is also a participant in HIV programs/initiatives of different countries, including Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and El Salvador. CAIR has developed and tested HIV infection’s preventive interventions to augment treatment rates for infected individuals and transfers its latest prevention-related research to patient care front liners and AIDS service providers.

HIV Statistics in Wisconsin

Since 1979, nearly 10,473 Wisconsin residents have been diagnosed with HIV, but the diagnosis rate increased rapidly during the late 1980s and reached its peak in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, infection rates in Wisconsin state declined considerably, but since 2010, the diagnosis rates have been fluctuating from low to high, with 213 cases reported in 2018 compared to 257 cases in 2017.

So, on average, Wisconsin has reported 232 new HIV cases per year since 2010. About half (48%) of people living with HIV in Wisconsin reside in Milwaukee County. The second most impacted region is Dane County, with 12% of all reported HIV cases, and 4% of the cases were reported in Racine, Kenosha, and Brown counties during 2017-2018.

In 1990, over 12 new HIV cases were reported per 100,000 residents in Wisconsin, while by 2019, the new diagnosis rate declined substantially to 3.7/100,000 people. During 2010-2019 the state’s annual diagnosis rate also fluctuated wildly, reaching a peak in 2017 with 4.5 cases/100,000 individuals. On average, 4.0 new HIV diagnoses were reported per 100,000 people per year since 2010.

Around two out of three reported HIV cases, or 62% of them reportedly have a transmission category of male-male sexual contact. In contrast, in 21% of the cases, the transmission category was male-female sexual contact/heterosexual contact. Over 16% of all HIV-positive patients contracted the virus via injection drug use or both injection and male-male sexual contact. Hence, male-male sexual contact could be dubbed the most common HIV risk factor in Wisconsin. During 2019, around 34 individuals received acute HIV diagnoses, and among these, seven were reported to be experiencing acute symptoms.

Age, Gender, and Ethnic Disparities

In Wisconsin, the majority of reported HIV cases were diagnosed in males (79%), and most of the cases were diagnosed in people above age 30 (89%), and around 51% of these people were aged above 50. 3 out of 7 positive diagnoses were reported in the white population (43%), followed by African-Americans with 38% of all diagnoses, and the third most impacted population group was Hispanics with 14% cases.

It is worth noting that between 2010 and 2019, the HIV diagnosis rate decreased from over 13 cases to 11 cases/100,000 young men. A similar trend was noted among older men and young females. However, the fact cannot be ignored that new HIV diagnosis disproportionately impacts people of color in Wisconsin. In 1989, the percentage of HIV diagnoses in people of color was 20%, which increased to 68% in 2019.

In 2019, 167 males, 43 females, and four transgender people of color were diagnosed with HIV. Around 1 out of 3 of these diagnoses were reported among males under 30, while the median age at diagnosis in Wisconsin was 32. But, in 2019, the new diagnoses rate among men was a lower average age than women as females above 39 were the most impacted age group compared to 30-year-old males.

The diagnosis rate was higher among blacks and Hispanic people in 2019 compared to other ethnicities. However, the new HIV diagnoses number per 100,000 people declined for Hispanic and black females between 2010-2019 while it remained stable for white females. On the other hand, the new HIV diagnoses rate declined for white males and remained stable for black and Hispanic males. Moreover, during 2010-2019, fifteen American Indian people were diagnosed with HIV in the state; three out of four were males, and 47% were below 30 years of age at the time of diagnosis. Nine of these diagnoses reported transmission category as male-to-male sexual contact, and two were attributed to injection drug use, while 4 had an unknown transmission category.


Reviewed by Debby R, MD. Last updated on Jan 13, 2022