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Take The AIDS Test and Take Control: AID Atlanta and Local Partners Host National Events

By Craig Washington Contributing Writer | 6/21/2013, 12:21 p.m.
Research indicates that people who know their status are more likely to use protection such as condoms and other risk-reduction measures.

On Thursday, June 27th thousands of state and local health departments, community-based AIDS service organizations and testing sites across the country will conduct HIV testing events in observance of National HIV Testing Day (NHTD).

This annual campaign is designed to highlight the importance of individuals knowing their HIV status, encourage those who are at-risk to get tested, and to raise overall awareness of the epidemic. Through community site-testing events, health fairs, and media broadcasts, print and online outreach, testing and information are made widely available.

AID Atlanta will host five testing events during the month of June, leading up to the annual observance of National HIV Testing Day 2013. Each event is free and open to the public. The culminating event will take place on June 27, 2013 from 11:30 am until 6:30 pm. The event is a collaboration between AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Underground Atlanta, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Fulton County Health Department and the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services. Staff and volunteers from the partnering health agencies will be on hand at the Underground Atlanta mall to conduct testing, recruit passersby, and participate in live interviews to promote greater awareness.

The theme for this year’s NHTD is “Take the Test, Take Control”. Getting tested is the first step to finding out if a person has HIV, and for those who are HIV-positive, it is a critical step toward taking control of one’s health. Research indicates that people who know their status are more likely to use protection such as condoms and other risk-reduction measures. Through testing, HIV-positive individuals can be linked to health care and other supportive services and receive antiviral treatments that can lower the amount of HIV in their system, known as the viral load. Lowering one’s viral load not only increases the chances of living healthier and longer. Those with suppressed viral loads are less likely to transmit the virus to someone else.

An alarming number of people who are living with HIV do not know their status. The Center for Diseases Control (CDC), estimates that among the nearly 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV, nearly 20% do not know they are infected. Georgia is ranked as the sixth highest state in the nation for cumulative number of people living with AIDS.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health in 2010, there were 40,328 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia. The majority of Georgians living with HIV reside in the 28 county Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area, most heavily concentrated in Fulton and Dekalb counties.

“We want to have those who really need to know their status get tested,” said Gary Jerkins, manager of AID Atlanta’s HIV testing program. “That is why we are collaborating with our partners to have events at several sites across the city.”

In Georgia, the populations with the highest HIV infection rates are gay men and other men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) especially young Black gay men, Black and Latino women, and injection drug users.