Free HIV/STD testing Friday in Ward 8

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

An organization aimed at decreasing the rate of HIV and AIDS being contracted and spread throughout the Black Belt is holding a free HIV testing day during their “Know your status” rally Friday. The event is in honor of National HIV Testing Week but will also kick off a campaign for Selma AIDS Information and Referral and Project Transformation.

Selma AIR is a non-profit, community-driven organization that offers free testing, counseling and treatment to those affected by HIV and AIDS throughout eight different counties in the Black Belt region. Currently Dallas County has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS with more than 230 cases reported cumulatively.

At the swimming pool in East Selma on Friday, June 21, Selma AIR will hold free HIV testing, and if tested positive, the organization will setup those people with treatment and counseling. The event will last from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and tests for other STDS such as Gonorrhea and Chlamydia will be available. Contraceptives will be dispensed as well.

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“Twenty years ago when people had HIV, they were told two things if you had the virus: you had to take 15 to 20 pills a day, and you will die but we will try and make it as comfortable for you as possible,” but today it is a different story, Cedric Wherry, the education specialist for HIV and AIDS said. “Today people who have the virus take three to four pills at most, but most normally take one.”

Wherry said HIV and AIDS with the advanced treatment available today, is becoming more like a chronic condition like high blood pressure because combining a healthy lifestyle and medical treatments will allow those with the virus to live as long as most others.

“But in order to live you have to know your status,” Wherry said. “There is no reason for anyone to not know their status and that is why we are calling it the know your status rally and that empowers you and your partner and your community and we should all know our status.”

He said many people are afraid to get tested just because they are afraid of what it might mean to test positive, but he said knowing your status is good for those infected, for their partners and the community as a whole so the spreading of the virus stops.

Selma AIR has tested more than 1,000 people in the course of one year. They plan to travel throughout their eight-county coverage area with Project Transformation — a collaborative effort with Selma AIR, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Black Belt HIV Prevention Network. They are taking the “Know your status” rally on the road to get more people educated about HIV and AIDS as well as get them tested so those with the virus will be treated and know how to stop spreading it.

Wherry said sometimes those interested in getting tested to know their status are scared away by fear of what testing could actually mean.

“Some people think it involves blood work, but it is just a simple mouth swab,” Wherry said. “We swab your top and bottom gums, then set the swab in a solution for about 20 minutes and then you know your results. If someone tests positive, we offer them treatment and ways to get help.”

For more information on Selma AIR and how to get tested for free and receive treatment and counseling, call 334-872-6795 or visit their office at 102 Central Park Place in Selma off of Medical Center Parkway.