HIV testing to be promoted

National HIV Testing Day will be June 26-27 in Tuscaloosa

National HIV Testing Day will be hosted by the Maude Whatley Health Center from June 26-27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their West End and Cottondale locations, as well as Walgreens on Highway 69 South.

According to the Center for Disease Control, one in six of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States do not know they are infected. Shakina Wheeler-Cox, Alabama Department of Public Health research worker, said that as of March 31, there are 18,492  reported cases of HIV and AIDS combined in Alabama.

"Adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 29 in Alabama are some of the newest and most affected groups of individuals contracting HIV," Wheeler-Cox said.

Alabama Department of Public Health states that as of March 2014, there are 589 cumulative cases of HIV in Tuscaloosa alone. This rate puts Tuscaloosa County as the third most infected area in Alabama.

The testing day will include games, prizes, testing sites, food and more. In response to the increasing number of cases, the CDC along with the National Association of People with AIDS founded the event in 1994. June 27 marks the 20th anniversary of NHTD.

To ensure success, a partnership was established with Walgreens stores worldwide to not only accommodate more testers, but also guarantee more prizes.  

Though the event will include entertainment, its sole purpose is to educate the community about HIV and its affects. 

“National HIV Testing Day benefits the community by enlisting organizations to partner together to promote this important national day and also to offer HIV testing at untraditional locations free and confidentially to reduce stigma,” Wheeler-Cox said. 

Free testing is available for anyone 12 years and older. That is by state law, with a written consent, at locations such as Tuscaloosa County Health Department, West Alabama AIDS Outreach, Whatley Health Services Inc., and other surrounding rural health departments.

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