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Across the U.S., June 27 is National HIV Testing Day

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Wednesday June 25, 2014

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, and across the nation, AIDS service organizations, LGBT groups and even local drugstores are holding events to promote people getting tested and knowing their serostatus. This year's theme urges people to "Take the Test and Take Control," with various events going on throughout the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the more than 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., an estimated one in six does not know that he is infected and only one in four has his virus under control with treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment saves lives and is known to reduce the spread of HIV. Those with HIV who are on treatment and in care can reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others by as much as 96 percent.


In New York City, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) is teaming with Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, Greater Than AIDS, a leading national public information response to the U.S. domestic epidemic, and OraSure Technologies to offer free rapid HIV testing from its mobile testing van in Times Square, directly in front of Walgreens. The testing event is part of a national initiative that is taking place in more than 100 cities from June 26-28. For more information, visit

In conjunction with the testing event, a press conference will be held at noon on June 26, and will feature appearances and comments by Dr. Rachael Ross, co-host of "The Doctors," Walgreens NYC Pharmacy Supervisor Morton Shaw, RPh, for Walgreens and GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie.

The press conference will draw attention to the critical role that HIV testing and prevention education play in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS in NYC and across the U.S.

Free HIV testing with OraQuick ADVANCE oral swab rapid test will be available to the public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the GMHC mobile van in the pedestrian area directly in front of Walgreens, 1471 Broadway (NW corner of Broadway and 42nd Street). The test is simple, greater than 99 percent accurate and results are available in 20 minutes. The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, an over-the-counter version of OraQuick ADVANCE, is also available for purchase at Walgreens retail locations or at It is the same test that doctors and healthcare professionals have relied on and used for 10 years.

Clear Channel Media and Entertainment has teamed up with Greater Than AIDS, a leading public information response to the domestic epidemic, to educate the public on the importance of routine HIV/AIDS testing and to empower listeners to know their status.

Beginning June 14, Clear Channel aired a two-week public service announcement (PSA) campaign across its more than 60 Urban radio stations, featuring spots voiced by 14-time Grammy Award winning artist Alicia Keys. Listeners will learn the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, which is known to improve health, extend life and help to prevent the spread of the disease.

"Media plays a powerful role in helping to inform and confront the stigma that still surrounds HIV/AIDS," said Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Communication and Media Partnerships program at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "We are so grateful for the longstanding partnership with Clear Channel on Greater Than AIDS which is reaching so many with life-saving information that will help us realize an AIDS-free future."

As a founding media partner of Greater Than AIDS, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment has made a substantial commitment to help bring attention to HIV/AIDS by utilizing its wide range of multi-media assets. Earlier this year, Clear Channel was the exclusive radio partner for a 30-minute on-air program featuring Keys in conversation with five inspiring women living with HIV in the U.S. The program was part of the Greater Than AIDS "Empowered" campaign, which continues to educate women in the U.S. about HIV/AIDS.

Clear Channel Outdoor, the leading innovator in out-of-home advertising, has placed hundreds of digital billboards to promote the "Empowered" campaign and to support additional Greater Than AIDS messages.

"National HIV Testing Day is an exciting opportunity to educate Clear Channel listeners nationwide about the importance of routine HIV testing," said Jessica King, Clear Channel’s Director of Community Engagement. "Clear Channel’s longstanding commitment to Greater Than AIDS will continue to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, empower listeners to know their status with the goal of helping to stop the spread of HIV."


In the Lone Star state, Walgreens has partnered with Greater Than AIDS to provide free HIV testing. Four Walgreens locations in Dallas will be offering free HIV testing June 26-28 in honor of National HIV Testing Day. Despite progress and advancements in HIV care and testing, one in six Americans living with HIV is unaware of his or her status, which is why Walgreens and Greater Than AIDS are collaborating to bring free testing to Dallas and other cities across America.

"National HIV Testing Day offers an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of knowing your HIV status at a time when one in six Americans does not know they are HIV positive," said Markeisha Marshall, a spokesperson for Walgreens. "Walgreens goal is to be a part of the solution to end AIDS -- this begins with helping people become aware of their status. For the fourth consecutive year, Walgreens, Greater Than AIDS and local health departments and community organizations are working together to bring free HIV testing to communities all across America.

Community pharmacists at Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies are specially trained to provide frequent and continual support to meet the unique needs of HIV-positive patients. They are trained to empower patients to better manage themselves by taking their HIV medication as prescribed, as well as eating healthy, exercising and understanding and coping with barriers to care.


In the District, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF), has partnered with WHUR 96.3 FM radio and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) for the sixth annual National HIV Testing Day, a yearly campaign to encourage and educate African Americans about the importance of getting tested for HIV and knowing their status.

The event will feature free confidential HIV testing, health information, music, entertainment and giveaways. It will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 27 at the Dorothy I. Height Building, 633 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004.


The Windy City is going for the one-two punch against both HIV and STDs like syphilis. According to a study released by the CDC this month, syphilis cases nearly doubled between 2005 and 2013, from 8,724 to 16,663. The majority of patients were men who had sex with other men. This is particularly troubling since syphilis was nearly eliminated in the U.S. more than a decade ago.

"Conventional wisdom says behavior that puts you at risk for syphilis could also lead to an increase in HIV transmission," said psychiatrist and sex therapist, Madeleine Castellanos, MD. "However, syphilis is dangerous all on its own because its primary symptoms can easily be missed or ignored, leading to brain and nerve damage later in life. Ironically, the whole reason guys are going bareback is precisely because the HIV drugs are so good today that people are less worried about getting it."

Castellanos advocates prevention and screening for these diseases and stresses the need for using latex condoms along with a silicone lubricant like Wet Platinum. She recommends limiting sex partners and encourages monogamous relationships. For those who have tested positive for an STI, she advocates clear communication with potential partners and disciplined safer sex practices.

"With National HIV Testing Day coming up on June 27, it’s time to take the test and take control," said Castellanos. "Everyone in the community needs to get serious about eradicating sexually transmitted diseases once and for all."

To that end, Trigg Laboratories, makers of Wet Lubricants, is providing 100,000 safe sex kits for Chicago’s Step Up. Get Tested. campaign, which kicked off on June 5. Their goal is to test 6,000 people during the month-long campaign.

Thirty partners support the citywide event, including the Chicago, Cook County and Illinois Departments of Public Health, in addition to Chicago area hospitals, community health centers and community-based organizations. In 2012, Step Up. Get Tested. made 40,000 contacts in one month and tested nearly 6,000 people.

"We’re proud to be the exclusive lubricant sponsor for Step Up. Get Tested.," said Michael Trigg, founder and CEO of Trigg Labs, makers of WET Lubricant. "We hope our safe sex kits will increase public awareness to reduce the stigma associated with getting tested for HIV. It’s so important to get educated, tested, and to know your current HIV status. Information is power and with that information you can protect others and get the proper treatment and counseling to live long and healthy lives."


In the Philadelphia area, Walgreens has more than 30 HIV-specialized
pharmacies that offer a range of personalized services that can improve health outcomes, increase access and help fill gaps in care, particularly in AIDS-endemic communities where stigma and other disparities may hamper diagnosis and complicate treatment.

A new study shows that HIV-specialized pharmacies can make a big difference for patients by increasing medication adherence. The findings, presented by Walgreens at the Cell-Lancet Conference, offer insights on how to better serve HIV patients.

And as part of Philadelphia FIGHTs intensive, month-long HIV awareness events, they are offering free tickets to a June 27 hip-hop concert featuring Wale, with special guests Chill Moody, ARSIN and DJNiiLO. All you have to do is get tested for HIV.

"Philadelphia FIGHT and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia seek to motivate hundreds of young people to get tested for HIV by offering a free hip hop concert on National HIV Testing Day," writes Philly FIGHT. "Teenagers and young adults aged 13-24 will receive a free ticket to see Grammy nominated recording artist Wale if they get a free HIV test at a variety of participating locations throughout the city on or before June 27, 2014. To date, 1,000+ youth have been tested."

The concert will be held at 7 p.m. on June 27 at the Trocadero Theater, 1003 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA. Limited tickets remain. For testing sites, visit


Today Rhode Islanders have access to many HIV testing services through their doctor’s office and in community locations with welcoming and safe environments. "Rapid" HIV tests are widely available that provide results in twenty minutes. Clients now often have a choice: a simple and painless mouth swab or finger-prick. There are many community-based organizations that offer anonymous testing at no cost. At AIDS Project Rhode Island (APRI), both individual and couples HIV testing is offered.

"I am a licensed RI HIV Test Counselor and have provided HIV tests to over 250 people," said APRI Executive Director Thomas E. Bertrand, MPH. "Most people who come in for testing are seeking the peace of mind a negative test result provides. I have witnessed mixed reactions to receiving a negative HIV test result -- huge sighs of relief, silent reflection, and tears of joy."

For those who receive a positive HIV test result, APRI provides counseling, assurance and support as they proceed to confirmatory testing and medical care. There are strong systems in place in Rhode Island to help people living with HIV access medical care, medications, and other social services, regardless of income and health insurance status.

"It takes courage to get an HIV test. However, on this National HIV Testing Day, I’m hopeful that Rhode Islanders will take advantage of the free, friendly, and rapid testing services in Rhode Island. The peace of mind, regardless of the test result, is well worth it," said Bertrand.

In honor of National HIV Testing Day, APRI is offering HIV testing from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on June 27 at 9 Pleasant Street, Providence, RI. All testing is free and anonymous. No appointment necessary. For information, call 401-831-5522 or visit


On the West Coast, the AIDS Project Los Angeles will offer free HIV and STD testing and treatment from 2-6 p.m. on June 27 at their APLA Health and Wellness Center, 3743 S. La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles.

The event will feature food, music, prizes and free rapid testing. Getting tested regularly for HIV is one of the best ways to stay healthy and safe. One in five people who are living with HIV don’t know it, and most HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know their status. You’ll receive information about HIV/AIDS, safer-sex practices, risk reduction and you’ll get a copy of your results when you leave. For info, visit

The local Walgreens at 3724 Crenshaw Blvd., 1800 W. Slauson Ave. and 600 Long Beach Blvd. will be offering free HIV testing. Go to to find a testing center near you.

And the city of Compton will host their first HIV testing day, in partnership with the Compton Blue Line Farmers Market, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA or Metro), Car Pros Kia of Carson and the Black AIDS Institute.

"Partnerships, like the one we are creating in Compton, are crucial to ending the AIDS epidemic in our communities," says Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "It is through the commitment of community leaders courageous enough to step forward and stand together that we will end the AIDS epidemic." Duffey agrees, "This is just the beginning of developing a long-lasting relationship with the Black AIDS Institute. With strong leadership of our council and Mayor and by engaging and informing the community, Compton is Greater Than AIDS!"

In addition to free HIV testing, there will be life-saving information, free giveaways and a free raffle for a 5-day, 4-night Carnival Cruise. Also, the winner of the Drive Out AIDS Win a New Car raffle sponsored by Car Pros Kia of Carson will be selected. Because of the generous donation of a new 2014 Kia Forte from CarPros Kia of Carson and prized salesman, Alvin "Alabama" Lovett, every dollar raised from the raffle goes directly to the fight against AIDS.

The event will be held from 12-7 p.m. on June 26 at the MLK Transit Center, Compton Blue Line Station located at 101 E. Palmer Street.

For a complete list of what's happening across the country, visit

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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