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Too few said to be getting HIV tests

Fatal disease still plagues area

POSTED: June 29, 2009 9:56 a.m.
Photo by Frenchi Jones/

A pamphlet sits on a table during free testing for National HIV Testing Day, which was Saturday.

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Encouraged by family members, Jane Doe hesitantly approached one of several booths set up at Joseph Miller Park on Friday for the Midway Community Night Out.
She was scared and nervous, but she said she knew it was time.
“I guess it’s better to know then not to know,” she said as she made her way to the HIV testing booth, a short journey that, to her, seemed to take ages.
In observance of National HIV Testing Day, Raphaella McCrary, a communicable disease specialist with the Liberty County Health Department, set up the portable testing site at the park.
Jane Doe took a seat at a table covered with pamphlets and magazines. Brightly colored phrases like, “You may not choose HIV, but the choice to test is yours” jumped off the publications’ glossy covers. Jane Doe said she was prepared to find out her status.  
“It’ scary, but I need to know.”
Doe and 10 other individuals, who all asked to remain anonymous, chose to be tested Friday night but, according to McCrary, so many others choose to remain in the dark.
“Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the U.S. gets the virus that causes AIDS,” she said. “That means that in the time that it takes you to watch your favorite sitcom, three people will become infected with the disease.”
AIDS is still the No. 1 cause of death for African-American women ages 25-34, according McCrary.
“And 35 percent of all of our [first-time] clients come to us already having full-blown AIDS,” she said. “In 2007, the number of persons living with HIV or AIDS in Georgia was 33,599. Approximately 39 percent of these persons had HIV and approximately 61 percent had AIDS.”
Those numbers are expected to continue to climb, McCrary said, and the only way to keep people safe and healthy is to educate the public and encourage everyone to get tested.
 “That’s why we always tell people to protect themselves, especially with new partners, and if you are with a new partner, you should both get tested together,” she said.
Debra Bacon, 46, agreed with McCrary as she and her family sidled up to the table.
Bacon said she takes the test every year, even when she is in a monogamous relationship. 
“That way I know I am safe,” she said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
 

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