Kern County Public Health offers free rapid HIV tests

March 7, 2024 /

Kern County Public Health (KCPH) launched the “A Healthier Kern – One Heart at a Time” campaign in February and plans to continue it through 2024. This campaign promised to focus on ten public health challenges that posed the greatest threat to residents’ well-being. During March, KCPH is focused on educating Kern on how STDs and HIV can impact their health, and offer free rapid HIV testing.

This health campaign is in response to the increasing number of Kern residents who are struggling with health problems that are preventable and treatable. Part of this initiative is providing the public with free rapid HIV and STD testing, which can take as little as twenty minutes for results.

Rapid HIV test shows negative results, photo courtesy by Dana Carrillo

To ensure the public knows what services are offered to them for free or at little cost KCPH invited the media to tour their health clinic and watch a demonstration of how the staff would test you for HIV.

Over two hundred new cases of HIV were diagnosed in 2022 in Kern. Unfortunately, the county also ranked third highest rate of chlamydia in the state and ranked number one in high numbers of congenital syphilis.

Patrick Salazar, an HIV/STD Program Manager for KCPH, stated that individuals need to be more aware of their status and treatments that can help prevent the virus from spreading.

To access free testing for you and your partner through the clinic- even assistance navigating hard conversations with past sexual partners- please reach out to the KCPH website to get help scheduling an appointment. Call 661-321-3000 to schedule appointments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or be a walk-in at their 1800 Mt. Vernon Ave location. Their mobile clinic also offers similar services to the greater Kern area, and for more information on where to find one near you visit their website.

“We also have the tenth highest rate of primary and secondary syphilis incidents among females ages fifteen to forty-four. Why is this important? Because this is when syphilis is the most contagious,” Salazar stated.

Salazar also emphasized the importance of having health providers encourage patients to get tested for STDs and HIV. Some individuals may think their doctor has already tested them for sexually transmitted diseases and viruses, but this is not the case and most physicians need their patients to ask for this lab testing to be done specifically.

He also mentioned that individuals wishing to use at-home testing kits can find free resources at

Braulio Mendoza is the Clinical Supervisor for KCPH. Mendoza led a tour of the clinic where he highlighted services such as immunizations, free contraceptives, exams, and isolation rooms for tuberculosis and other communicable diseases.

To accommodate the wide range of services the clinic has increased staffing with four health providers, additional nurses, and support staff. Mendoza explained that these services are offered to all ages, no ID is required, and if necessary they take Medi-Cal and most insurance plans.

“No citizenship is required. We do just make sure that a simple name or a document with a simple name can actually- we can render services to individuals,” stated Mendoza.

For the KCPH staff, the month’s top priorities include lowering sexually transmitted infections and diseases, educating the public on preventive medicines for HIV and treatments, giving immunization shots, and providing family planning through contraceptives. Mendoza mentioned that individuals wishing to have contraceptives like Intrauterine device (IUD) insertions can receive those services at the clinic.

Brynn Carrigan – Director, Patrick Salazar – HIV/STD Program Manager, Braulio Mendoza –Clinical Supervisor at KCPH speaking at the March Open House for the clinic, photo courtesy by Dana Carrillo

Brynn Carrigan, the Director for KCPH, described the HIV transmission increase in the county as a prevalent issue that the public needs to be proactive about. She stressed that there are a few options for preventive actions individuals can take, but that there’s also treatment available so you should never lose hope. PEP and PrEP are different kinds of preventive medications that can be taken to lower the risk of contraction when exposed.

“We’re really trying to make this place friendly. This is not a government building, this is a ‘we are here to serve you, you are welcome here no matter who you are,” Carrigan said.

Right across the street from the Mount Vernon location is Bakersfield’s East High School. Carrigan stated that students will use the clinic services, and are more likely to engage with KCPH to job “shadow” staff members in hopes of getting a career in the medical field.

“All the work that we do here at Public Health we try to collaborate with schools and with partner agencies because we can’t do this work alone, and in many instances, a school or a church or a community-based organization has more of a trust factor built up with individuals that they’re able to help us with that connection,” explained Carrigan.