June 21, 2007
Officials say AIDS Alabama plans to launch a mobile rapid-testing van in Birmingham beginning Wednesday, June 27, National HIV Testing Day. The 31-foot, $75,000 RV is nicknamed the BRAT [Birmingham Rapid AIDS Testing]-mobile and was acquired with a donation by drug-maker Gilead Sciences. The RV has two testing and counseling areas, offering patients confidentiality. A plasma television will communicate HIV education information.
The BRAT-mobile plans to stop at Western Hills Mall to provide free rapid oral HIV tests on June 27, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., said Tykeysha Boone, AIDS Alabama's education director. The vehicle will first target low-income African-American communities in Birmingham, where HIV risk is highest and many lack transportation, she said. "It's going to be a really good way for us to get out in the community."
Eventually, the BRAT-mobile will venture into communities outside Birmingham, traveling to schools, churches, and sporting events, said Boone.
By December 2006, 14,710 people had been diagnosed with HIV in Alabama, and many new infections were in the black community. With easier testing access, people can receive earlier diagnoses and treatment, improving outcomes, and helping prevent transmission.