April 29, 2013
On April 27, at the SafeAlex Health Fair, Central Louisiana AIDS Support Services (CLASS) debuted a mobile van unit, made possible by a $50,000 Community Impact Award grant from the Central Louisiana Community Foundation. The van arrived April 3 and has been certified for testing. Previously, CLASS was able to administer testing only at its Alexandria office on Jackson Street. With the van, CLASS hopes that their expanded testing area will allow more people to get tested.
CLASS administers the free tests, which eliminate the need to draw blood by using an oral swab, and delivers test results in 20 minutes. "We were already out in the community providing educational material," said Ann Lowery, director of CLASS. "Now we'll be able to say, 'You want to get tested? Just step inside the van.'" Recently, CLASS experienced budget cuts, which forced them to offer testing only to the immediate Alexandria/Pineville area, even though their area includes eight parishes.
The southern portion of the United States has been hit hard by HIV because of a lack of access to healthcare and insurance. Louisiana ranks poorly within this region; Central Louisiana ranks poorly within the state. According to Lowery, young people ages 1324 are a fast-growing HIV-infected segment of Central Louisiana. For more information on CLASS, visit www.cenlahivservices.org or call (318) 4421010.