Many National HIV Testing Day Initiatives Focus on African-American Community
The CDC estimates that between 800,000 and 900,000 Americans are currently living with HIV and as many as a third of those people are unaware of their HIV status. Nearly 40,000 people are infected with HIV each year and half of those people are under the age of 25. To increase awareness and encourage Americans to be tested for the virus, the CDC has declared today National HIV Testing Day, and through a special Web site and series of events, the agency is encouraging people to get tested. The Web site features HIV/AIDS fact sheets in English and Spanish as well as a list of frequently asked questions about the disease. It also links readers to a national database of HIV testing centers and lists upcoming testing events (HIV Testing Day Web site. 6/27).
According to the recent survey "The AIDS Epidemic at 20 Years: The View From America" by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43% of Americans report having been tested for HIV, with African Americans and Latinos most likely to report getting tested (58% and 44%, respectively). Those who have never been tested said that they "did not believe they were at risk." A third of those surveyed said that they would be "very" or "somewhat" concerned about what others would think if they knew they had been tested. Among sexually active teenagers, 27% reported having been tested, but more than half of all teens surveyed said that they were unsure about where to go for testing and wanted more information about testing availability (KFF release, 6/26).
Across the Country
State and local health departments and not-for-profit organizations across the country are increasing efforts to get people tested this week. A list of some of these initiatives follows:
- More than 50 centers in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties in Florida will provide free HIV testing this week, hoping to reach more than 1,000 people (Coto, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/26).
- The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the state HIV/AIDS Bureau are asking people to get tested. In Worcester, Mass., the AIDS Project is holding "Congregate Meal Events" to encourage people to take part in an "informal forum" about HIV and testing (Echegaray, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 6/25).
- Testing is available at several locations throughout Richmond, Va., and a mobile testing unit will be in the city on Friday (Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/25).
- Several testing sites in Albany, N.Y., are offering free and confidential testing this week. Organizers of the Capital District HIV Free Testing Week have joined with churches and groups like local Planned Parenthood clinics to promote testing (Wood, Albany Times Union, 6/25).
- The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is "urg[ing] all women of childbearing age and their partners" to undergo HIV testing. Women of childbearing age represent one of the "fastest growing segments of the HIV-positive population" and need to be tested in order to get treatment and to prevent transmission of the virus to their children, the foundation says (Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation release, 6/21).
Testing Efforts Target African-American Community
Many of this week's testing initiatives are aimed at the African-American community in light of the "alarming" HIV infection rate in the community. The following events are targeted to African-American communities:
- In Buffalo, N.Y., a group of black ministers and politicians publicly underwent oral HIV testing to encourage others to get tested. A similar event last year encouraged a "record" number of people to get tested (Sapong, Buffalo News, 6/22).
- The Greater Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce will offer free tests today in the city's Hadley Park, and organizers are offering free T-shirts and prizes in hopes of luring those between the ages of 13 and 26 (Hill, Nashville Tennessean, 6/12).
- Indiana health officials are encouraging black churches to promote HIV testing, saying that if church leaders talk about the disease, more people may be "willing to come forward and get help" (Johnson, Evansville Courier and Press, 6/25).
- Black Entertainment Television has responded to the HIV epidemic in the black community with the "Rap-It-Up" campaign. The campaign, co-sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Magic Johnson Foundation, LIFEBeat and Cable Positive, uses public service announcements and a mobile health unit that will tour nine urban centers this year to spread the word about HIV/AIDS in the black community. "HIV/AIDS is without question one of the most critical health issues in the African-American community today. BET, as the nation's leading communications access point to African Americans, is uniquely positioned to raise awareness and educate our community about this health epidemic. Through the Rap-It-Up campaign, BET and its partners will seek to inform and provide resources that empower African Americans to lead healthier lives," Robert Johnson, chair and CEO of BET Holdings II, Inc., said (BET release, 11/28).
- Cable Positive, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to use the communications industry to raise AIDS awareness, will stage a "television roadblock" at 8 p.m. tonight. At that time, cable channels have "pledged" to air a 30-second public service announcement featuring Magic Johnson and the band the Baha Men "stress[ing] the importance of HIV testing" (Gallagher, New York Daily News, 6/22).