This Sunday is National AIDS Testing Day, and right now national and local agencies are getting the word out about free HIV/AIDS testing.
Events are being planned in Leon and Gadsden Counties to not only raise awareness about the virus, but to help people understand that the HIV test is simple and more importantly, confidential.
For a long time, videos and pamphlets were used to get the message out about the seriousness of HIV and AIDS. Julie Zimmerman with the Bond Community Health Center says the method has changed. Now, agencies are hosting health fairs and providing on the spot HIV testing.
Julie says, "As prevalent as it is, people are hesitant because someone sees them going into a clinic, or even thinks they are being tested, they are afraid that they would be seen as being positive."
Lamar Douglas agrees. Douglas serves as the Director of Education Services for Big Bend Cares.
Lamar Douglas says, "People are afraid, not so much afraid of getting tested, but the fear heightens when they want to return for the results.”
For the purpose of this story, Dennis Andrews, a case manager with Big Bend Cares, agreed to do an on camera HIV test. Big Bend Cares offers a test that uses a cotton swab to check for HIV antibodies in the mucus membranes of the mouth.
Douglas says on average his agency sees eight clients a week, but he would like to see more.
"My wish would be for them to have a cure for HIV/AIDS, because right now there is no cure for it," he says.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than half of all Americans diagnosed with HIV each year are African American.
Big Bend Cares is hosting one event in Gadsden County set for Wednesday at the Board of County Commissioner's Office, and another on Friday at The Moon in Tallahassee from 12 to 6. The Leon County/Bond Community Health Center will host an event on Saturday from 12 until 4.
All testing will be free, and of course, confidential.
HIV/AIDS World and U.S. Statistics
- As of the end of 2000, an estimated 36.1 million people worldwide -- 34.7 million adults and 1.4 million children younger than 15 years -- were living with HIV/AIDS. More than 70 percent of these people (25.3 million) live in Sub-Saharan Africa; another 16 percent (5.8 million) live in South and Southeast Asia.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 800,000 to 900,000 U.S. residents are living with HIV infection, one-third of whom are unaware of their infection.
- Approximately 40,000 new HIV infections occur each year in the United States, about 70 percent among men and 30 percent among women. Of these newly infected people, half are younger than 25 years of age.
- In the United States, 753,907 cases of AIDS had been reported to the CDC through June 2000.
- The estimated annual number of pediatric AIDS cases in the United States fell from 945 in 1992 to 155 in 1999.
- AIDS is now the fifth leading cause of death in the United States among people aged 25 to 44, behind unintentional injuries, cancer, heart disease and suicide.
- The estimated annual number of AIDS-related deaths in the United States fell approximately 68 percent from 1995 to 1999, from 50,610 deaths in 1995 to 16,273 deaths in 1999.
- In 2000 alone, HIV/AIDS-associated illnesses caused the deaths of approximately 3 million people worldwide, including an estimated 500,000 children younger than 15 years.
Source: www.niaid.nih.gov (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Institute of Health) contributed to this report.