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HIV fight taken into salons
Campaign goes where women talk
AW S5Campaign2
Prevention is key: Coastal Area Support Team HIV Prevention Education Counselor Raphaella McCrary displays her table of STD educational materials at the first S5 Campaign event to be hosted at the Highly Favored beauty salon Saturday. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
Along with educating Liberty County women about their hair, some local hairstylists will be working to educate them about their sexual health through a new partnership with the Coastal Area Support Team.
CAST, a six-county HIV/AIDS outreach organization, recently teamed up with area hair salons to create the Salons Supporting Safer Sex for Sisters Campaign, an initiative “to promote HIV prevention education and testing for women of color.”
According to a collaborative report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Development Fund for Women and the United Nations Population Fund released in July, African-American and Latino women account for 80 percent of the AIDS cases among women in the United States.
More than 25 years since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of AIDS to the world, the disease formally labeled “the gay, white male disease” has also become the leading cause of death among African-American women between the ages of 25 and 44.
“Everybody-unless they don’t read the newspapers-knows that HIV and AIDS is definitely on the rise and is an epidemic in the African-American community,” CAST HIV Prevention Education Counselor Raphaella McCrary said. “So that’s a huge part of why we’re targeting (minority) hair salons.”
Beauty shops participating in the S5 Campaign host free oral HIV testing in two-hour blocks and participating stylists offer a 10 percent discount to clients who take the test, McCrary said as she finished up the first S5 event Saturday at the Highly Favored salon in Hinesville.
The prevention education counselor said the goal of the initiative is to test 500 women by the end of the year and with an estimated 200 females already tested, she is hopeful organizers will reach their mark.
But HIV testing is just the first step toward making overall better choices in sexual health, McCrary added.
“It’s important that you get tested so you know your status,” she said. “Once you know your status, you can make wiser decisions about your sexual behavior.”

Get tested
The Highly Favored salon located at 1451A W. Oglethorpe Hwy. in Hinesville will be hosting its second S5 Campaign event on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information on the campaign, testing or how to host an event, call McCrary at 912-271-7384.
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