BATON ROUGE- Take the Test! Take Control! This is the key message of this year's National HIV Testing Day, set for June 27. The day is dedicated to encouraging people to find out their HIV status and helping those who are positive access treatment and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
This weekend the Louisiana Department of Health STD/HIV Program and The Black AIDS Institute will kick-off the "Louisiana>AIDS Testing Tour, on the Road to the Essence Music Festival." The week-long tour includes stops in six cities with free, confidential HIV testing and counseling, and is being held to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS in black communities, encourage HIV testing and fight the stigma associated with STD's and HIV. At each stop attendees will have a chance to win one of six five day cruises adn Essence Music Festival tickets.
The tests will be private and confidential, and will be administered on-site by trained, certified counselors. The counselors will provide treatment referrals, if necessary.
These screenings are being offered as part of health outreach to African-Americans, who make up just 32 percent of the state's population, yet represented 75 percent of Louisiana's new HIV cases last year. More African-Americans in Louisiana are infected with HIV than any other racial or ethnic group, reflecting a national trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that Baton Rouge ranked second and New Orleans ninth nationally in AIDS case rates in 2009.
"We are excited to help lead this effort to raise STD and HIV awareness and promote testing with all of these community partners," says DeAnn Gruber, PhD, Director of the Louisiana LDH STD/HIV Program. "The entire state is geared up and ready to make this event a success. This combined effort will have a huge impact on understanding the importance of getting tested and hopefully, begin to change the stigma of STDs and HIV that is still present in our communities."
Alere, a company that makes HIV rapid test kits is the exclusive testing sponsor of the testing tour. Avita Drugs, a Louisiana-based specialty pharmacy is also sponsoring the tour. Orasure Technologies, which makes the 20 minute HIV oral rapid test, will sponsor HIV testing at the Essence Music Festival. Other valuable community partners include the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Louisiana Community AIDS Partnership, www.greaterthan.org, and community organizations around the state.
For more information on National HIV Testing Day events or locations for HIV screening, contact the Louisiana Statewide STD/HIV/AIDS information hotline at 1-800-99AIDS9 (or 1-800-992-4379) or visit http://www.hiv411.org/.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.