Infectious-Disease Specialist MarkAlain Dery at Tulane Medical Center Uses Music to Promote HIV Testing

On Saturday, local musicians will promote HIV awareness at the Second Annual HAMP (HIV Awareness Music Project) at One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St. The musical review's performers will undergo rapid HIV testing in a bid to show patrons how easy it is to get screened and know your status. HAMP is the brainchild of Dr. MarkAlain Dery, an infectious-disease specialist at Tulane Medical Center.

New Orleans became the skateboard-riding, mohawk-coiffed physician's adopted home following Hurricane Katrina. Dery ran one of the evacuee clinics in the Houston Astrodome and was impressed by the spirit of those he helped. Music, he noted, was an integral component. "It almost brought tears to my eyes to see how music could soothe the soul," he said.

Dery organized the first HAMP concert at the Howlin' Wolf nightclub in December 2009. The goal was to show fans "it's just that easy" to get tested for HIV. R&B star Charmaine Neville was among the first to sign up for the event.

"It didn't feel any different than going to the doctor with a cold; when they put that big Q-tip in your mouth and swab it around," Neville said of the HIV test.

"The things people are afraid of are what end up killing them," Neville said. "Young people who are [HIV-]infected don't know it; that's the scary part."

HIV is "a completely preventable disease," said Dery, yet it is rampant in New Orleans, the US metropolitan statistical area second only to Miami in its HIV infection rate.

Doors open Saturday at 8 p.m.; admission price is $15.