June 26, 2009
Organizations including AID Atlanta, a nonprofit HIV/AIDS education and support organization, are providing free HIV testing this week to mark National HIV Testing Day.
Georgia has one of the highest AIDS rates in the nation, with 19.7 cases per 100,000 population in 2007, ranking ninth-highest among the states, according to CDC. Metro Atlanta ranked 10th among US metro areas, with 23 cases per 100,000 population.
"The testing is free, and we are trying to make ourselves accessible to the community," said Neena Smith-Bankhead, director of education and volunteer services at AID Atlanta. "We are also expanding our hours so people can try to make it before work and maybe a little after work to get tested."
"People are finally heeding the call and go out and get tested," Smith-Bankhead said. "But some of the people at highest risk still aren't coming out to get tested. There are still certain communities and certain populations that we are still having some trouble reaching," including African-American women and young adults, she said.
"I feel great," Michael J. Brewer said in a Kroger parking lot after receiving an HIV-negative test result at a free event organized by AID Atlanta and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "I am very thankful and grateful. It was very quick and painless," said the 23-year-old Morehouse College graduate from Oklahoma City. "Particularly people in my community, being black and gay, but all people should practice and get in the habit of being tested regularly."