Testing for HIV, STD part of health fair

Published 9:20 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2014

By Christopher Edmunds

The Selma Times-Journal


Selma residents will have access to free HIV and STD testing at the Health and Employment Fair Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Selma Convention Center.

In addition to free HIV and STD testing, there will be free food, live music, free T-shirts, health screenings, employment linkage and giveaways.

The first 40 people to take advantage of the free HIV testing will receive $10 gift cards.

The event is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Public Health in partnership with the Black AIDS Institute.

Janice Robbins with the Dallas County Health Department said the health fair was organized to educate as many people as possible.

“The goal is to raise awareness,” Robbins said. “Some people are just not educated about the virus, how it is transmitted and how to test for it.”

The HIV test being offered Thursday is what is known as a “rapid test.”

Robbins said while there are several ways to test for HIV, the rapid test is quick and easy.

“For the rapid test, we use a swab on the upper gum and lower gum,” she said. “We then just wait 20 minutes to see the results.”

Thursday’s event will be the second stop in the Alabama Testing Tour. The tour will be in Selma on Thursday and Birmingham on Friday.

Robbins said these three cities were selected based on the prevalence of HIV in the communities.

“The epidemic in these cities is huge,” Robbins said. “The Black Belt is important because African Americans are affected more than any other culture.”

According to the Black AIDS Institute, the HIV epidemic disproportionately affects African Americans in Alabama. During 2012, the rate of HIV diagnosis for black men was 6.5 times that of white men. For black women, the difference was more extreme, at 12.5 times the rate for white women.

Robbins said despite the statistics, major advances have been made over the years, but information is critical to fighting AIDS in the black community.

“It’s not the death sentence it was back in 1981,” Robbins said.

For more information about the upcoming health fair or the Black AIDS Institute, call 877-757-AIDS or contact programs@BlackAIDS.org.