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
Source: www.niaid.nih.gov (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Institute of Health) contributed to this report.