HIV TESTING DAY: Programs Offer Free Tests Nationwide
Health departments and AIDS groups around the country marked National HIV Testing Day yesterday with barbecues, block parties and other activities to encourage people to get tested, the Tampa Tribune reports. The fifth annual testing day, sponsored by the CDC and the National Association of People with AIDS, aimed to spread the word about HIV and make it easier for people to learn their status at free, anonymous testing sites (Porter, Tampa Tribune, 6/26). The CDC estimates that nearly 200,000 Americans are unaware of their HIV+ status (Hobbs, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 6/27). "We're throwing it like a block party to get the people in the community to come in," said R. Andrienne Bernard of St. Petersburg, FL-based People of Color AIDS Coalition. "Once we get them in, we can get them tested," she said, underscoring the difficulty AIDS groups face in getting minorities to undergo testing (Tampa Tribune, 6/26). In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports, AIDS is the top killer of black men and women ages 25 to 44. "In the African-American community, we don't even realize we make up over half of the HIV cases," said Lawanna Gelzer, executive director of the Open Center of Orlando, which does AIDS outreach in the black community. Blacks account for 59% of Floridians with HIV, even though blacks represent only 15% of the state population. At the same time, many AIDS workers "report that minorities are less likely to talk about AIDS than non-Hispanic whites, and that is a major barrier to testing and treatment." Osceola County Health Department nurse Pauline Brayman said, "A lot of times we don't see them come in until they've become a full-blown case." The Orange County Department of Health offered free testing yesterday behind the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, and the Seminole County Health Department also targeted a predominately black community for free testing yesterday (6/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.