Houston, June 13: AHF/Magic Johnson Testing Van Teams
with Legacy for Free HIV Testing at Juneteenth Festival
HOUSTON, Texas — On Saturday, June 13 AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the nation’s largest non-profit AIDS organization, will partner with Legacy Community Health Services (Legacy) to provide free HIV testing at the popular Houston Juneteenth Multicultural Health Festival from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Legacy was the first community-based organization in Texas to offer the HIV test in 1985 and currently conducts over 6,000 HIV tests per year. The agency has been at the forefront of the HIV epidemic ever since, developing a continuum of HIV prevention and care to include primary care, psychiatry, eye care, dermatology, nutritional counseling, personal training and physical therapy, as well as an array of social and financial services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“When AHF presented Legacy with this great opportunity to partner with them to raise awareness about AIDS and offer HIV testing on their mobile testing unit, we immediately agreed to participate,” said Katy Caldwell, Executive Director of Legacy Community Health Services. “The City of Houston estimates that 1 in 40 African-American Houstonians is living with HIV, so using the mobile testing unit at the Juneteenth festival will allow both organizations to reach out to one of the most impacted populations in the city.”
In an effort to boost AIDS awareness and HIV prevention and testing efforts in some of the hardest hit regions of the United States, AHF began a three week, fourteen-city cross country HIV testing caravan in one of its popular AHF Mobile HIV Testing Units, which are named in honor of and partnership with HIV positive basketball legend Earvin Magic Johnson, Jr. and actor and AIDS advocate Blair Underwood. The tour kicked-off in Los Angeles on Monday, June 8thand culminates with the mobile unit’s arrival in Washington, DC on Saturday, June 27th—National HIV Testing Day. AHF is permanently relocating one of the mobile testing units from Los Angeles to D.C., to provide free, easy-to-access rapid HIV testing in various neighborhoods throughout the nation’s capital, where it was recently reported that the HIV prevalence rate has surged past 3%—higher than in Lagos, Nigeria.
As AHF staffers and HIV testing counselors drive the van from Los Angeles to Washington through many Southern and Eastern states, AHF’s ‘whistle stop’ testing tour will seek to heighten awareness about HIV testing in local communities along the route.
“While making initial plans to transport our brand new, state-of-the-art AHF/Magic Johnson Mobile Testing Unit from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, we hit upon the idea that this cross country road trip presented a unique opportunity to raise awareness about HIV testing, prevention and treatment through specific testing events and community outreach in cities and states along the way,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “As a result, AHF partnered with respected local AIDS and community groups in Phoenix, Albuquerque, Houston, New Orleans, Jackson, Mississippi; Pensacola, Florida; Montgomery, Alabama; Jacksonville, Atlanta, Columbia, South Carolina; Charlotte, Norfolk and Washington, DC to host free HIV testing and media events in each of these communities. At the end of the tour, the AHF/Magic Johnson Mobile Testing Unit will remain and operate in Washington, where AHF will also open a free AIDS treatment clinic—our first in that city—later this summer.”
“The beauty of these free mobile HIV testing vans is that AIDS Healthcare Foundation operates them right in the heart of the community—in parking lots of popular retail stores, nearby hip nightclubs and gathering spots, at church events—and they provide the testing, counseling and results all in one session, so people get their test results right away on the same day,” said Blair Underwood, who attended the Los Angeles kick-off event. “It is important that people learn how to avoid becoming infected with HIV; or if they are infected, know their HIV status, and seek medical treatment, if needed. People really need to know their HIV status today. These HIV testing vans provide that opportunity for free in a friendly, no hassle way.”
During the testing tour, AIDS Healthcare Foundation will also present $5,000 grants to each of the local partners AHF is collaborating with along the way. And throughout the course of the 4,220 mile, three week cross country HIV testing tour, HIV testing counselors and AHF staffers will also supply a steady stream of updates, videos and images via new media: YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter postings from along the route, interviews with local partners, government officials and, when appropriate and available, interviews with people who were tested on the mobile unit. http://www.youtube.com/aidshealth,http://www.facebook/people/Aidshealth-Care/, http://www.twitter.com/freehivtest,http://www.myspace.com/aidshealth, http://www.freehivtest.net/testingusa
A fully outfitted 34 foot HIV/AIDS mobile medical treatment clinic that is operated by AHF’s Positive Healthcare in rural areas of north Florida and in the Panhandle will also join the HIV testing caravan starting in New Orleans. The van, affectionately dubbed, ‘Bertha,’ will travel on with the AHF/Magic Johnson Testing Unit through the remaining Southern and Eastern states and on to Washington. This mobile clinic will serve as an additional backup HIV testing van along the route. Bertha, however, will return to service as a mobile medical clinic in Florida after the National HIV Testing event in Washington on June 27th.
HIV Statistics in the United States
“Last August, the Centers for Disease Control released new data showing an alarming 40% increase in HIV infections in the US—56,000 new cases each year up from a previous estimate of 40,000 new cases annually,” said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Public Health Division. “There is no doubt that the South is disproportionately affected by HIV and without adequate resources. On our trip we want to meet our colleagues in these cities, support agencies in providing testing and do what we can to raise awareness about the genuine need for HIV testing and treatment throughout the region. The number of new infections in the U.S. is absolutely unacceptable. We have a responsibility to do what we must to help those with HIV know their status and get linked into care.”
According to an HIV/AIDS Policy Fact Sheet produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation (“The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States”, updated, February, 2009, with statistics through 2007)
The Kaiser Fact Sheet also pointed out:
- Ten states account for 71% of AIDS cases reported since the beginning of the epidemic. Nine of these states also rank in the top 10 for newly reported cases. Three of the states that the AHF/Magic Johnson Mobile Testing HIV testing Unit will visit on its tour—Texas, Florida, and Georgia—are among these top ten states; together, they account for 21% of the nation’s reported AIDS cases through the end of 2007—or 216,199 cumulative AIDS cases.
- (AIDS) case rates per 100,000 provide a different measure of the epidemic’s impact, since they reflect the concentration of cases after accounting for differences in population size across states. The District of Columbia has the highest AIDS case rate in the nation. Seven of the top 10 states by AIDS case rate are in the South. The AHF/Magic Johnson Mobile HIV Testing Unit tour will travel to and do HIV testing events in five of these Southern states and areas: Louisiana (, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation’s largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 100,000 individuals in 21 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org
Legacy Community Health Services is a full-service, Federally Qualified Health Center that provides comprehensive, primary healthcare services to all Houstonians in a culturally sensitive, judgment-free and confidential environment. Legacy specializes in HIV/AIDS testing and treatment. Generous financial support from government grants, individuals, businesses and charitable foundations allows Legacy to provide no-cost or low-cost healthcare services to over 20,000 men, women and children each year.